The official blog of the Lung Institute.
When you have a chronic lung disease, such as pulmonary fibrosis or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), having enough oxygenated blood can be challenging. For people with lung disease, lung function and lung capacity can diminish over time. Lung function is a metric determined by how much air your lungs can hold, how quickly you can take in and let out air from your lungs and how well your lungs oxygenate and remove carbon dioxide from your blood. Lung capacity differs from lung function because lung capacity is the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use. Simply put, lung function is how your body uses air while lung capacity is how much air your body can use. While lung function cannot be improved, lung capacity can be controlled and improved. So, here are some tips on how to increase lung capacity.
Some studies have shown that people with COPD may benefit from taking certain vitamins, such as vitamin D. When vitamin D is added to the treatment plan and used in addition to standard rehabilitation, some people showed improvement in exercise capacity and respiratory muscle strength. The theory behind using vitamin D is that it helps reduce inflammation, which is a key issue in COPD. Some patients saw a reduction of severity and duration of flare-up symptoms with continued vitamin D use.
4. Having Self-Confidence
A study showed that self-confidence can play a key role in how well COPD patients respond to exercise. For this study, researchers divided participants into three groups. One group performed only upper-body resistance exercises, and the second group that performed did gentle armchair exercises and health education. The third group performed upper-body resistance exercises and participated in a self-confidence building program. The group that did both upper-body exercises and the self-confidence building program showed the most progress at the end of the study. Keeping a positive attitude and having self-confidence can help people improve their mood and outlook, which can help you stay motivated on your path to increasing your lung capacity.
3. Clean Home
Dust, airborne indoor pollutants, chemical fumes and more can cause symptom flare-ups, so keeping a clean home is important. Consider getting rid of dust collecting items such as window treatments, carpet and curtains. Place your mattresses and pillow cases in dust mite proof zippered cases, and wash your sheets and bedding at high temperatures. Be mindful of temperature and air quality reports. When the outdoor air quality is poor, keep your windows closed. If you decide to use indoor air purifiers, HEPA filters as well as natural air purifiers are good choices.
If cleaning or performing daily activities is challenging for you, it’s okay to hire someone to clean your home with non-toxic, fragrance-free cleaners. While your home is being cleaned, enjoy a meal with a loved one.
2. Improving Exercise Tolerance
Another way to increase lung capacity is to improve exercise tolerance. Exercise causes your heart and breathing rates to increase, so your body has enough oxygen and strengthens your heart and lungs. The average person’s lung capacity can be improved around 5 percent to 15 percent even with frequent workouts. Many experts recommend some form of physical exercise at least three times a week. Some doctors may prescribe pulmonary rehabilitation, which combines exercise, education and support. Talk with your doctor before starting or changing your current exercise program and to develop the best plan for you.
1. Breathing Exercises
Breathing exercises are an excellent way to increase lung capacity. For many people with a chronic lung disease, shortness of breath presents many challenges. When you’re relaxed, your body is naturally able to breathe more easily. Talk with your doctor about these breathing exercises and work with him or her to modify them for your specific needs.
- Pushing Out: With your feet flat on the ground and with an upright posture, keep your knees relaxed and bend over from the waist. Push the air out of your lungs, and then slowly return to an upright position. Inhale slowly and allow your lungs to comfortably fill with as much air as possible. Hold your breath for 20 seconds. However, if 20 seconds is too long, pick a timing that you can manage. While counting, lift your arms over your head. Relax and then lower your arms as you exhale slowly. Complete this cycle four times.
- Rib Stretch: Stand upright and exhale all the air from your lungs. Slowly breathe in, and expand your lungs to the maximum capacity. Hold the air for about 20 seconds or what is comfortable for you. While counting, place both hands on your hips with your thumbs facing front with pinkies touching the small of your back. Exhale the air slowly, relax and repeat three more times.
- Abdominal Breathing: Lay in a comfortable position on your back, and rest one hand on top of your abdomen. Rest the other hand on your chest. Breathe in deeply and slowly from your mid-section. The hand on your stomach will rise higher than the one on your chest. Exhale slowly from the mouth and inhale slowly from the nose, holding your breath for seven seconds if possible. Then, when you exhale, breathe out for eight seconds. Make sure to squeeze your abdominal muscles near the end, so you exhale all the air. Breathe this way for five cycles.
Start Today to Increase Lung Capacity
The best time to make a positive change is now, so after talking with your doctor, give these 5 easy tips a try. It will take time to increase lung capacity, so remember to stay optimistic. Having self-confidence and practicing positive self-talk will help you achieve your goal of breathing easier. In combination with these tips to increase lung capacity, stem cell therapy can help promote healing within the lungs. If you or a loved one has COPD, emphysema, pulmonary fibrosis or another chronic lung disease, the Lung Institute may be able to help. Contact us at (800) 729-3065 to learn more about stem cell treatment options.