With COVID-19 causing us to stay indoors, we tend to sit more, exercise less, and thus, use our lungs less efficiently. To get your lungs into better shape, your go-to option should be regular old physical activity — the kind that gets your heart rate up. Anything that makes you breathe faster is basically a breathing exercise, whether it’s biking for 20 minutes, swimming, walking, or practicing pranayama (yogic breathing exercises).
Staying active is especially important because lung function will decrease with neglect. Without use, the muscles that support your breathing become weaker and your lung tissue will lose elasticity. Studies (and common sense) have shown that exercise boosts lung function.
So, what should I do? Aerobic activity! It helps air get into the deepest parts of your lungs. And if there are any pollutants you’ve inhaled, aerobic activity helps you clear them out and decreases your risk of infection or pneumonia. Aerobic fitness also helps your body obtain oxygen from the environment and use it in the most efficient manner. So, if you happen to get COVID, and you’ve been doing cardio, that’s going to help you.
What’s important for lung health is to exercise at an intensity that quickens your breathing rate. Many of us don’t like the discomfort of heavy breathing, but when we push ourselves just outside of our comfort zones, we achieve the largest gains. That includes our lung health too.
Aerobic activity is also great for your muscles and weight maintenance. Sometime in the near future, this pandemic shall pass, and when it’s no longer acceptable to wear pajamas all day, it will feel good to put on those old jeans and leave the house. We’ll get through this, friends!
My last piece of advice? Mix it up! Just running every day will wear at your knee and hip joints, so make time to stretch, strengthen, and work on your range of motion! I participate in a different activity each day whether it is running, a HIIT class, biking, yoga, or a brisk walk. It’s all good for you and cross-training helps to preserve your joints.
So, get out there! Today! And strengthen your lungs, body, and spirit!
Love, Dr. Yang