Can’t Breathe In Your Mask? Here Are 4 Tips To Strengthen Your Lungs

Medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Johnson
Medically reviewed by Dr. Scott Johnson on June 17, 2020
Natural Medicine Educator & Author
Updated on June 18th, 2020
how to strengthen your lungs

Right or wrong, more businesses are requiring employees or customers to wear a mask while on their premises. And while flip-flopping health organizations and officials can’t make up their mind on the benefits of this practice, the public is growing increasingly concerned about the potential adverse health effects of healthy people wearing masks so frequently. If you’re among these concerned people, here are four tips to strengthen your lungs.

How to Strengthen your Lungs?

1. Participate in Regular Physical Activity

Regular physical activity positively benefits your overall health and well-being and improves muscle strength. The vast benefits of physical activity also include maintaining lung health. Even though the lungs have no skeletal muscles of their own, regular physical activity can help improve your lung capacity (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use) and oxygen usage efficiency.

Your muscles use more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide when you exercise. To compensate for this, your breathing rate and capacity can increase from about 15 breaths a minute (12 liters of air) up to 60 breaths a minute (100 liters of air). (1) Over time, the demand placed on your lungs during physical activity makes them more efficient while simultaneously improving muscle function, so they require less oxygen to move and produce less carbon dioxide. The result is improved endurance and a more efficient respiratory system.

Aim for 30 minutes of moderate-intensity physical activity each day.

[ Read: Respiration Exercises to Support Health & Wellbeing ]

2. Deep Breathing Exercises

Just like regular exercise improves your cardiorespiratory function and strengthens your muscles, deep breathing can make your lungs more efficient and help them reach their full capacity. Taking deep breaths allows you to more fully exchange incoming oxygen with outgoing carbon dioxide.

Deep breathing engages your diaphragm—the large dome-shaped muscle located at the base of your lungs used for breathing. Your diaphragm moves downward as you breathe in, pressing against your abdominal organs to make more space for your lungs. As you breathe out, your diaphragm moves upward against your lungs, helping them expel carbon dioxide.

Shallow breathing prevents the cluster of small oxygen-carrying blood vessels in the lowest portion of your lungs from getting their full share of oxygenated air. On the contrary, deep breathing facilitates a full oxygen exchange and gives these lower blood vessels their fair share of the oxygen you inhale. Practiced consistently, deep breathing helps maintain healthy and strong lungs.

Simple Deep Breathing Exercise:

  1. Slowly inhale through your nose.
  2. Be aware of your diaphragm by purposefully allowing your abdomen to expand with your chest rising very little.
  3. Purse your lips and slowly exhale through your mouth.
  4. Try to exhale for twice as long as you inhale. For example, count to 4 when you inhale and 8 when you exhale.
  5. Repeat this breathing for at least three minutes daily.

3. Stay Hydrated

Stay Hydrated

The majority of your body is water, making us staying hydrated . Your lungs rely on sufficient water to function properly as well. Staying hydrated helps to thin the mucus that lines your lungs and airways. Conversely, dehydration can cause the mucus lining to thicken and become sticky, so your lungs don’t clear mucus efficiently. Your breathing slows and increases the risk of illness and allergies when excess mucus is present. Staying hydrated helps you breathe easier with less annoying phlegm.

Drink approximately half of your body weight in ounces each day to maintain proper hydration (e.g. a 150 lb. person would need to drink 75 ounces daily). Adjust your hydration in hot weather and when participating in physical activity.

4. Essential Oils

Essential oils contain small, lightweight aromatic molecules that can easily enter the lower and upper respiratory tract when inhaled. Various essential oils have been used for centuries to support healthy respiratory system function or clear mucus from the airways.

A clinical study found that inhalation of neroli or spearmint essential oil improved respiratory function and exercise performance. (2) Two separate groups of 10 healthy men were nebulized with spearmint or neroli essential oil five minutes before a 1500 meter running test.

A lung function test showed that the oils improved lung function and capacity. Lung spirometer—a test used to assess lung function—results increased from the norm of 50 percent to 60 and 70 percent respectively in the spearmint and neroli groups.

1,8-cineole (eucalyptol) is the primary constituent of genuine eucalyptus essential oil. It has been the subject of multiple studies, demonstrating anti-inflammatory and antioxidant benefits. A review study concluded that recent clinical trials with 1,8-cineole demonstrate its benefits for respiratory health. (3)

Other essential oils commonly used for respiratory support include:

    • Ravintsara
    • Peppermint
    • Myrtle
    • Frankincense
    • Copaiba
    • Rosemary
    • Lemon

Add one to two drops of essential oil to your mask when wearing it to support healthy respiratory function. In addition, diffuse respiratory-supporting essential oils during the day and while sleeping.

About the Author:

Scott Johnson, Natural Medicine Educator & Author

Scott Johnson tirelessly explores the solutions Mother Nature has provided and the science that reveals how these solutions help you be your healthy self.

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