There are many factors that effect a person’s longevity. Among those one of the most reliable and the least recognised is lung capacity. The Framingham study, for example, followed 5200 individuals for three decades and concluded that the best predictor of mortality was lung volume.
“This pulmonary function measurement appears to be an indicator of general health and vigour and literally a measure of living capacity”. Wm B. Kannel and Helen Hubert.
The researchers from this study were able to foretell how long a person was going to live by measuring forced exhalation breathing (flow rate) over a set period of time. They concluded that this volume decreased in the individuals studied by 9% to 27% per decade starting at the age of 30.
If you combine these findings with the knowledge that diseases like cancer are anaerobic and thrive in a low oxygen environment, and if you consider that breathing detoxifies your lymphatic system, you cannot help but come to the conclusion that people would be able to stay healthier and live longer by learning how to maintain lung capacity and how to better deliver oxygen to their bodies’ tissues and organs. Here are some things you can do to improve your lung capacity and to better oxygenate your body:
- For a few minutes every day breathe deeply and slowly. Try to exhale all of the air that is in your lungs. Keep your posture straight. Spread your arms to the sides as you inhale slowly. Picture the air descending into your stomach and all of your extremities. Then, slowly exhale, trying to get all of the air to leave your lungs before you take your next breath.
- Observe your dominant breathing patterns. Do you favour your left or your right nostril? Do you tend to breathe in the air through all of your nostril or just a fraction of the opening closest to the tip of the nose? Do you breathe through the mouth too much? Focus on altering your breathing pattern. Breathe more intensely through the nostril you do not favour. Direct the air current in a different manner. Have it touch the sides and the tip of your nose, the mid section, the space between your nose and upper lip. Practice this until you find a balance between the breathing patterns you favour and those you do not.
- Make sure that you can breathe comfortably at night. You should not need to resort to breathing through your mouth. If the air in your bedroom is too dry, get a humidifier. If the city where you live is polluted, get some house plants to help clean the air. Make sure that you are neither too cold nor too hot.
- Do not overeat. Frequent overeating will not only put an unnecessary strain on your body, but it will leave less room for your lungs and put a strain on your diaphragm.
- Include plenty of alkaline food in your diet. Acidic food will deprive your body of oxygen that it desperately needs.
- When you are not alone, practice holding your breath. Breathe in slowly into your stomach for about six seconds. The hold your breath for two seconds. Breathe in again for two seconds. Hold your breath for two seconds. Breathe in again for two seconds. Now exhale for 6 seconds. Hold your breath for two seconds. Exhale for two seconds. Hold your breath for two seconds. Exhale the rest of the way. Repeat this exercise several times. As you get better at holding your breath, increase the amount of time it takes for you to do each step.
- Go for a swim or do some exercise in the water. Due to compression, your lungs will have to work harder to get the air they need. Your oxygen utilisation, resistance training and lung capacity will all be improved.
- Working out at a high altitude will provide similar benefits to swimming as your lungs will need to work harder to get the air they need. So go for a jog in the mountains, or consider a cycling adventure. However make sure that your workout is safe, that you are not alone and that you are not doing the exercises while light-headed.
Do short bursts of high intensity exercises. Resistance training will be the most effective. While you are at rest you are only utilising a small percentage of your lung capacity. Exercising increases that percentage.
A study published in 2001, by The American Medical Association, explored the maximum amount of oxygen a body can take in during exercise. They concluded that endurance sports like long distance running make you work harder to get the oxygen into your lungs, hence providing the lungs with a better workout.
The study also concluded that the harder your body has to work to get oxygen, the less chance you have of dying. Elite endurance athletes have been shown to outlive the average person by 5-6 years.
- Pay attention to your posture. Poor posture restricts breathing and makes it more shallow. So does sitting for long periods of time and standing while leaning predominantly on one leg.
Finally, remember that you will never be able to fill your lungs maximally by breathing in, unless you get in the habit of exhaling all the CO2 you can out of your lungs. Most people start breathing in before they ever finish breathing out. Practice conscious breathing on an empty stomach and in loose clothing every day, if you can. Do this outside and in view of the sun, as this will help you maintain better psychological balance and improve your health.