The Importance of Breathing Exercises for Lung Health

Although breathing fuels our body, taking this complex process for granted is easy. People with lung issues like Mesothelioma or lung cancer know firsthand how challenging it is when your lungs cannot function properly. This is why knowing quality breathing exercises for lung health is beneficial when approaching a lung disease.

According to the Canadian Lung Association, on average, we breathe in and out over 22,000 times daily. When our lungs struggle to perform this process, stale air and waste gases build up, making breathing even harder for lung cancer patients.

Incorporating breathing exercises into your daily routine helps rebuild, strengthen, and relieve your overworked lungs. Patients that are experiencing any lung cancer symptoms should practice breathing exercises. Pulmonary experts recommend consistently practicing these three simple deep-breathing exercises to improve your breathing.

Deep Breathing Exercises for Lungs

Most people do not think about how they breathe, let alone if they do it correctly. Deep breathing is a healthy way to breathe because it fills your entire lungs with oxygen.

Since every cell inside our bodies needs oxygen to live, our lungs need all the oxygen they can get to filter oxygen to the bloodstream and remove waste gases. Taking deeper breaths makes it easier for our lungs to function properly and get oxygen to other organs, like your heart and brain.

Incorporating routine deep breathing exercises can help cycle oxygen throughout the mesothelioma and lung cancer patient’s body, decreasing lung infection likelihood. These exercises also help strengthen the diaphragm and abdominal muscles, allowing more air in and out of the lungs. It also helps stabilize your heartbeat and blood pressure, which rises when your lungs compensate.

Making these exercises a habit is one way to improve your lung health. Try creating a routine incorporating different techniques to see which best works for you. While practicing any breathing exercise, we recommend the following:

  • Find a comfortable and quiet space to sit or lie down.
  • Relax and avoid tensing up.
  • Shift your focus and relieve your mind of any stressors and distractions.
  • Practice these exercises 1-2 times a day around the same time to create a habit.
  • Practice these exercises for 10-20 minutes.

If you or anyone you know is experiencing difficulty breathing, especially deep breathing, this might be an unexpected sign of lung cancer that should be checked by a doctor.

Diaphragmatic Breathing Exercises for Lungs

The diaphragm is so important because, without this dome-shaped muscle, we cannot breathe. When we breathe in and out, our diaphragm contracts and widens the space in our chest, making breathing easier and increasing lung capacity. The diaphragm is located at the bottom of the lungs, assists with bowel movements, and maintains lymph flow throughout the body.

Since the diaphragm is an essential pulmonary muscle, it is vital to incorporate diaphragmatic breathing into your exercise routine. Doing so will strengthen your diaphragm, slow your breathing work rate, decrease oxygen demand, and save effort and energy to breathe.

Patients with respiratory issues like dry cough may find these exercises more challenging, so modify your breathing duration to best fit your needs.

The most basic way to do diaphragmatic breathing is to inhale through your nose and exhale through your mouth. We recommend lying flat on the ground and following these steps:

  1. Find a comfortable surface to sit or lie down.
  2. Let your shoulders relax and shift them away from your ears.
  3. Put one hand over your stomach and the other on your chest.
  4. Breathe in as much as you can through your nose.
  5. Feel the air enter your nostrils, stomach, and abdomen while remaining still.
  6. Purse your lips while exhaling, slowing for 4 seconds.
  7. Repeat several times.

An important thing to note is that other pulmonary experts and doctors may refer to diaphragmatic breathing as abdominal or belly breathing. These three names all mean the same and can use the same breathing technique.

Pursed Lip Breathing Technique

Pursed lip breathing is another exercise to help mesothelioma patients strengthen their lungs. This technique is one of the simplest ways to slow down and focus on breathing. Aside from getting more oxygen into your lungs, pursed lip breathing improves ventilation, releases trapped air in your lungs, keeps your airways open longer, improves breathing patterns, and relieves shortness of breath.

This technique can be practiced while engaging in physical activity or resting. We recommend following these steps while doing this exercise:

  1. Let your neck and shoulders relax.
  2. Inhale slowly through your nose for 2 seconds while your mouth is closed. Counting to yourself and placing your hand over your stomach to feel it expand may be helpful.
  3. Purse your lips.
  4. Exhale slowly through your pursed lips for 4 seconds. Counting to yourself and placing your hand over your stomach to feel it shrink may be helpful.

Alternate Nostril Breathing Exercises for Lungs

Alternate nostril breathing is a yogic breath control practice that originates from Sanskrit. It is known as nadi shodhana pranayama, translating to a subtle energy-clearing breathing technique.

Although this technique has many variations, the two most used are anulom vilom and nadi shodhana. Practicing anulom vilom involves conscious inhaling through one nostril and exhaling through the other. Nadi shodhana consists in holding your breath for a few seconds after inhaling through one nostril and then exhaling through the other.

Incorporating these variations into your breathing exercises relaxes your mind, improves cardiovascular function, reduces stress, improves lung function and endurance, and lowers your heart rate. If you feel fatigued during this exercise, do not push yourself and listen to your body. Building respiratory endurance requires time and patience, and this process should not be rushed.

Some people find it helpful to do this while practicing yoga. But remember, muscle weakness is a lung cancer symptom that can make it challenging to incorporate yoga. We recommend doing whatever feels the most comfortable to you. While performing this exercise, remember to slow down your breathing, use your entire diaphragm, and follow this cycle:

  1. Sit with your legs crossed in a comfortable space.
  2. Put your left hand on your left knee.
  3. Hover your nose with your right hand.
  4. Exhale entirely and place your right thumb over your right nostril.
  5. Inhale through your left nostril, and then place your fingers over that same nostril.
  6. Open your right nostril and exhale only through this side.
  7. Inhale through the same nostril and then close it.
  8. Open your left nostril and exhale only through this side.
  9. You have now completed one cycle.
  10. Continue this cycle for 5 minutes.
  11. Always finish your cycle with an exhale on the left side.

When Your Breathing Exercises for Lungs Don’t Work

Breathing exercises are not a one-size-fits-all solution. Even if you are diligent and dedicated to practicing these various exercises, there are still no guarantees that this will help your condition.

Having advanced-stage lung cancer, underlying medical conditions, or anatomic limitations can prevent these exercises from being effective. Specific lung pains like burning or stabbing sensations can also affect your breathing and impact the effectiveness of these exercises.

If these exercises are not helping, do not be discouraged. At Mesothelioma Hub, we assist, guide, and help manage the pain during these critical health times. Visit our free evaluation page to request a personalized evaluation of your condition and receive expert guidance.