Keeping your lungs healthy is always a smart idea. But with the fall cold and flu season approaching, plus the critical impact that COVID-19 can have on people’s respiratory systems, lung health seems particularly tied to overall wellness right now. Here are four tips for respiratory wellness.
Avoid Smoking and Other Irritants
Smoking cigarettes, marijuana and other products can have a seriously detrimental effect on lung health. But there are plenty of other irritants that can make breathing harder or damage the lungs.
Indoor air quality is often much worse than the air we breathe outside. You can’t avoid all irritants—after all, it’s hard to force your employers or shopping centers to do much about indoor air quality—but you can have an impact on your home. Avoid purchasing products with volatile organic compounds or VOCs, including formaldehyde, terpenes, tetrachloroethylene and toluene. These are commonly found in consumer products such as cleaning supplies and air fresheners, as well as durable goods like furniture and paint. When possible, identify goods that don’t have these toxins and buy them instead. Consider removing items that do contain these contaminants.
If you live in an area where radon is common, have your home tested to ensure this odorless gas isn’t entering the home and affecting your lung health and wellness. People in communities with good outdoor air quality might also consider spending extra time in nature.
Muscles and bones need exercise to stay healthy, but your lungs do too. According to the American Lung Association, adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate physical exercise five days per week.
Lung health and wellness is improved by both cardiovascular activity and muscle-strengthening tasks (especially those that beef up the core). Try to get some of both in every week. Weightlifting while walking, yoga to stretch and strengthen after a run, or gardening that involves lifting pots and other materials are just a few examples of how these types of exercise can be combined.
Another tip to improve respiratory wellness is to engage in breathing exercises on a regular basis. Professionals at Johns Hopkins University’s medical program recommend breathing exercises to help people who have lost lung function regain it, but it can also be helpful for keeping lungs healthy and able to take in enough oxygen. (See the Johns Hopkins website for instructions and videos on deep belly breathing, humming to improve lung health and wellness, and more.)
An added benefit to breathing exercises is that it can be a time to practice mindfulness and meditation, which have also been shown to positively impact overall health.
All organs benefit from a healthy diet, and the lungs are no exception. According to the Lung Institute, lung health and wellness is improved by a diet rich in omega-3s, vitamins D and E, and antioxidants. Include plenty of foods such as salmon and other fatty fish, nuts, flaxseeds, grapes, tomatoes, broccoli and leafy greens in your diet on a regular basis.