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Your lungs and exercise

Your lungs and exercise
As you age, your lungs can see a decrease in its capacity and become less efficient. This can reduce your overall fitness, endurance and strength. Exercise can help restore the effects of aging and improve your overall lung health.

Your lungs are like a sponge, they take the oxygen from the air and transfer them into the blood stream. They provide the oxygen for energy use by the body and also help remove the waste product carbon dioxide.

When you exercise the lungs require an increasing amount of oxygen for the extra energy demand. The harder you workout the more oxygen you need and so your breathing increases, as does your heart rate. Healthy lungs provide a greater amount of oxygen and help you recover quicker.

In this article I’ll cover the benefits gained by certain workouts and also cover various issues that can effect lung health.

If you suffer from any issues related to your lungs, please seek medical advice before starting a workout program.

Working out and your lungs

If you have issues with your lungs then working out can be very difficult. Exercise requires an increase in oxygen supply for energy production within your muscles. This can lead to a shortness of breath which will limit your ability to supply your muscles with the oxygen needed.

Those suffering from emphysema or bronchitis should keep intensity low to allow you to breath out more slowly and more effectively. You should also keep exercise to around 5-15 minutes each session and maybe consider doing intervals of 1-2 minutes at a time. You will also need to avoid both very hot and cold environmental conditions and stay well hydrated. Use of the pursed lip breathing method is recommended.

Incidentally, such things as walking, gardening or cleaning can be a good place to start for those with such lung issues and should be done 3-5 times a week. Take all activities to the stage of being out of breath, but not short of breath and no more.

If you suffer from asthma, then you would be best working out in a warm, clean environment. Working out in the cold can cause coughing, wheezing and a shortness of breath. Some people (myself included) can suffer from Exercise Induced Asthma (EIA). A good warm-up and cool-down procedure can help reduce the effects of EIA. Your doctor may also recommend the use of an inhaler if necessary.

If you are healthy and have good lung capacity, it is still a good idea to work out in a clean and warm environment and avoid cold dry air conditions. One thing to mention here, is if you have healthy lungs and workout with high intensity and get out of breath, it’s your heart rate that can’t keep up with the supply of oxygen to your muscles and not your lung capacity, as your lungs will normally be able to supply enough oxygen, but your circulatory system can’t keep up.

Recovery takes time due to the need to remove the excess carbon dioxide and acid build up from your workout.

The positives of working out for your lungs

Exercises can make your muscles and heart more efficient and therefore require less oxygen and reduces shortness of breath. Although lung function cannot be improved, lung capacity can. With increased lung capacity, you increase the amount of oxygen available, reducing breathlessness.

Those that have lung issues may feel it best not to exercise. However the correct type of exercises can help improve your fitness and reduce the very symptoms that are causing you issues. Start slow and work your intensity up gradually. Exercise will allow you to use less effort in daily activities and improve your overall wellbeing.

Those that have healthy lung function can get some great benefits from exercising, increasing their overall lung capacity and breathing rate to provide an increased amount of oxygen for their workouts.

Bottom line

Always seek medical advice before starting an exercise program.

If you suffer from a shortness of breath, coughing, wheezing, chest pain, nausea, dizziness or feel faint during a workout, stop immediately. Seek medical advice if necessary, follow a plan that is tailored to your situation. Take your time and start slow to increase your fitness.

Improvements to lung capacity can benefit all trainers at all stages.