Your lung capacity is the total amount of air that your lungs can hold. Over time, our lung capacity and lung function typically decrease slowly as we age after our mid-20s.
Some conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) can significantly speed up these reductions in lung capacity and functioning. This leads to difficulty in breathing and shortness of breath.
Fortunately, there are exercises that can help maintain and increase lung capacity, making it easier to keep your lungs healthy and get your body the oxygen it needs.
1. Diaphragmatic breathing
Diaphragmatic breathing, or “belly breathing,” engages the diaphragm, which is supposed to do most of the heavy lifting when it comes to breathing.
This technique is particularly helpful in people with COPD, as the diaphragm isn’t as effective in these individuals and could be strengthened. The technique best used when feeling rested.
If you have COPD, ask your doctor or respiratory therapist to show you how to use this exercise for best results.
According to the COPD Foundation, you should do the following to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
Relax your shoulders and sit back or lie down.
Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
Inhale through your nose for two seconds, feeling the air move into your abdomen and feeling your stomach move out. Your stomach should move more than your chest does.
Breathe out for two seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen.
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