This blog has been written by Asa Peach, Personal Trainer here at Unique Results Limited.
Breathe Easy awareness week is promoted by the British Lung Foundation and takes place from 17th June to 23rd June this year. The aim of the week is to promote awareness of lung diseases as well as to raise funds for vital research and campaign work the foundation undertakes. The British Lung Foundation concerns itself with respiratory health problems. The main aim of the foundation is to prevent, treat and cure respiratory diseases. According to statistics provided by the BLF website 10,000 people in the UK are newly diagnosed with a lung disease every week. One in five people have developed asthma, or other Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases. 20,3% of UK deaths are caused by lung diseases according to a poll conducted in 2012. Every five minutes that pass, one person passes away from lung diseases (British Lung Foundation , 2012).
Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Diseases (COPD) are long term illnesses caused by obstruction of the airways (bronchi, alveoli). The two main types of COPD are bronchitis and emphysema. Bronchitis is caused by infection of the airways of which causes inflammation of the bronchi. Emphysema is the inflammation of the alveoli (air sacs within the lungs) of which makes it difficult to expel oxygen within the lungs. Cigarette smoking and air pollution are the main cause of COPD’s due to the chemicals of which are inhaled. Cigarette smoke weakens the lining of the lungs as well as obstructing the alveoli through the intake of tar within the cigarette smoke. According to a recent study conducted by cancer research, 19% of the adult population within the United Kingdom smoke cigarettes. Cigarette smoking is also the main leading cause of cancer within the UK (15%) (Cancer Research UK, 2018).
How to Improve Lung Function:
Singing has been proven to be an effective way of improving lung capacity and respiratory function. Singing promotes slow, deep and controlled breathing. Singing teaches you to become one with their regulation of breathing. It helps to reduce anxiety and panic by giving you more control over the regulation of inhaling and exhaling. Lastly, singing strengthens the abdominal muscles of which lead to an increase in breathing efficiency and improvements in posture.
Sitting posture that promotes kyphosis (emphasised curvature of the thoracic spine) can negatively effect breathing and lung function. A way of correcting postural problems would be to train upper back more so than pushing movements in order to strengthen the muscles around the shoulder blades. This will decrease compression of the lungs and diaphragm of which will lead to less obstruction and more efficient breathing. You can improve sitting posture by working on hip flexor and extensor mobility. A simple way of doing this is decreasing the amount of time sitting in a chair, and increasing the amount of time you spend sitting in a deep squat.
This will increase flexibility in the hips of which will lead to less overcompensation in the upper spine when sitting (less slumping and shoulders protracting forward).
Train your heart and your lungs:
Cardiovascular exercise will improve lung capacity as well as functioning of the heart in relation to pumping the red blood cells (of which contain oxygen) to the working muscles. The lungs become more efficient at removing carbon dioxide and transporting oxygen to the working muscles as a long-term health benefit to following cardiovascular exercise. A minimum of 150 minutes is recommended to be undertaken in order to improve lung capacity according to the National Health Services. As lung capacity improves, as does the body’s way of utilising oxygen during exercise and movement due to the increased strength of the heart. This reduces breathlessness, lethargy and premature fatigue during exercise and everyday activities.
Vitamin B12 and Vitamin D.
It has been reported that a deficiency of Vitamin B12 can cause fatigue, breathlessness and lethargy (to name a few). Consumption of vitamin B12 via foods high in protein or through supplements can improve the aforementioned problems. Liver, beef and tuna are just a few examples of foods high in vitamin B12. Vitamin D deficiency is closely related to COPD and asthma. It has been recommended to increase your vitamin D intake in order to improve lung function. Fatty fish such as tuna, mackerel and salmon of which are good sources of vitamin D. Not only can balanced consumption of vitamin D be good for lung function, it can also lessen the risk of osteoporosis (decreasing of bone density).
Sources of Information
Briani, c. e. a., 2013. Cobalamin Deficiency: Clinical Picture and Radiological Findings. Nutrients, 5(11), pp. 4521-4539.
British Lung Foundation , 2012. Statistics British Lung Foundation. [Online]
Available at: https://statistics.blf.org.uk/
[Accessed 2 June 2019].
Cancer Research UK, 2018. Cancer Research UK. [Online]
Available at: http://www.cancerresearchuk.org
[Accessed 3 June 2019].
Zosky, G. e. a., 2011. Vitamin D deficiency causes deficits in lung function and alters lung structure. American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine, 183(10), pp. 1336-1343.