Healthy Lung Month: Deep Breaths & Thoracic Extension Exercises

Breathe in, breathe out.  We could all use some deep breaths right about now.

This October, Healthy Lung Month, is the perfect time to start thinking about how your lungs feel when you take the first deep breath on a chilly fall day.

In this blog post, we are going to talk about why 'Pursed Lip Breathing' could be your ticket to optimized cardiovascular performance. You'll also discover how adopting better posture can enhance lung function dramatically – no more hunching! 

When it comes to lung health, not all breaths are created equal. Especially during Healthy Lung Month, it's essential to give some thought about how we breathe. Dr. Taylor Rahe an Occupational Therapist with Tru Whole Care in New York City, helps us breakdown three simple tips to promote healthy lung function.

#1 The Benefits of Pursed Lip Breathing 

Pursed Lip Breathing is more than just a way to whistle a happy tune. This technique optimizes cardiovascular performance and reduces muscular fatigue - like having your very own built-in gym. It's also proven that this type of breathing promotes better oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, making every breath count even more. 

This technique can be especially beneficial during the flu season when our lungs need extra help combating pathogens. If you're worried about air quality impacting your lungs' ability to get adequate oxygen, fear no more. 

“This technique forces us to slow down our exhales and promotes better oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange, " says Dr. Rahe. Begin by taking a gentle and comfortable breath in through your nose for 4 counts. On your exhale, purse your lips as if you are blowing out a candle and SLOWLY breathe out through your mouth for 7 counts. Consider using this strategy during your next workout to optimize your cardiovascular performance and reduce muscular fatigue!”

#2 Understanding Box Breathing 

Moving on from lips pursed like a duckface selfie; let's talk Box Breathing. The idea here isn't stuffing yourself into cardboard but mastering control over inhalation, retention, exhalation and pausing in between. Sounds complicated? Not at all. In fact, regular practice increases lung capacity for oxygen uptake while promoting rhythmic respiration patterns. Remember the time cigarette smoke destroyed lung tissue? Think of box breathing as an effective tool fighting against these harmful effects by keeping those delicate tissues healthy.  The American Lung Association backs both techniques because they serve as vital allies in maintaining good respiratory care throughout life.

Dr. Rahe explains, “this technique increases the lung’s capacity for oxygen and promotes rhythmic and even respiration patterns which is proven to positively impact your heart rate variability (HRV) and overall physiological well-being.” “Begin by taking a gentle breath in through your nose for 4 counts. Hold this inhalation for 4 counts. Next, take a controlled breath out through your nose OR pursed lips for 4 counts. Hold the exhalation for 4 counts and repeat, shares Dr. Rahe.”

Breathe right for healthier lungs. During Healthy Lung Month, try Pursed Lip Breathing and Box Breathing. The former boosts cardiovascular performance and helps in better oxygen-carbon dioxide exchange, while the latter enhances lung capacity and rhythmic respiration. Choose a quiet place to practice these techniques - they're like superpowers hidden under your nose. 

Ever wonder why singers stand tall when they perform? It's not just for aesthetics. A healthy posture can greatly improve lung function, and here's how. That leads us to how proper (and improper) posture can effect Lung Health.

Rounded shoulders, a "hunched" back, or excessive neck flexion - we're all guilty of these postural sins at one time or another. But did you know that these common misalignments could be sabotaging your lung health? A study found that poor posture may lead to the development of several respiratory conditions including chronic bronchitis and other air passage-related health issues. Dr. Rahe understands the importance of thoracic extension exercises.

#3 The Importance of Thoracic Extension Exercises 

You might ask: What is thoracic extension anyway? Simply put, it involves stretching out the mid-upper part of your spine - think opposite hunching. This move has been hailed as an effective way to combat those detrimental rounded shoulders and stooped backs. 

Maintaining good thoracic mobility plays a crucial role in optimal lung function. The reason being our lungs are nestled within this region. Your upper body position affects up to 30% percent of your overall lung capacity. That means slouching could potentially rob us nearly one-third of precious oxygen-carrying capability. We hope you are sitting straighter already!

How to Lift Your Heart (and Lungs): Here’s something worth pondering over: How often do we pay attention to our bodies while scrolling through social media feeds or binge-watching Netflix marathons? Unfortunately – hardly ever. And it’s taking a toll on our health. We're practically breathing evidence of this neglect. Next time you catch yourself slumping in your chair or hunching over your laptop, remember – that seemingly innocent slouch might just be suffocating your lungs and cutting off their air supply.  Exercises for thoracic extension can really turn things around by fighting off those pesky negative impacts.

Tools to Improve Posture and Lung Function: “If you're seeking an effective tool to enhance your posture and lung function, look no further than the Backbridge. While you can use a yoga block or foam roller, a Backbridge is recommended as best practice due to the various levels available,” explained Dr. Rahe. As flu season looms large, maintaining healthy lungs becomes more crucial. But how does posture relate to this? Simple - better posture allows for improved air quality within our bodies by maximizing lung capacity.  A simple adjustment in our daily habits can help raise awareness about pulmonary disease. How does the Backbridge help us breathe easier and stand taller?

How to Use the BackBridge Effectively: The key is thoracic extension exercises. These aren't as complicated as they sound. They essentially involve arching your upper back (thoracic spine) while supporting it with the curved design of the Backbridge. This opens up your chest area, allowing for deeper breaths – quite like taking a deep breath of clean air after stepping outside on a crisp morning. Over time, regular use will not only correct rounded shoulders but also alleviate chronic inflammation often associated with bad posture. 

The Basics: Start off by placing the lowest level (level 1) of the Backbridge on a flat surface.

Your Position: Lie down on the Backbridge so that your thoracic spine aligns with the curve of the Backbridge. Your arms can be extended straight overhead, or at your sides.

The Routine: Spend 2 minutes daily performing deep breathing exercises while lying on the device twice a day - once in the morning and once in the evening.

As time passes, you can progressively add a level. This way, it adapts better to your needs and expectations. 

Over time, daily stretches on the Backbridge can improve your lung health and posture by opening up your chest for deeper breaths and correcting rounded shoulders. Just remember to start slow and gradually increase intensity as you get comfortable with the exercises. 

Importance of Regular Check-ups for Lung 

You may be thinking, "I feel fine, why should I get my lungs checked?" Well, let me tell you a secret. Your lungs are like the silent heroes of your body; they're always working hard but never complain - until it's too late. That's why regular check-ups for lung health are so crucial. 

To get a better understanding of the importance of regular check-ups for lung health, let's consider our lungs like sponges soaking up air instead of water. Just like a sponge can't clean properly when it gets filled with dirt and grime over time, your lungs can't function at their best when clogged with harmful substances such as cigarette smoke. Ensure your lungs get the care they deserve. 

The Role of Check-ups in Detecting Lung Disease Early 

Detecting possible issues in the beginning is essential for avoiding serious lung diseases such as COPD or lung cancer. Think about it this way: It’s easier to fix small leaks before they flood your house right? The same applies here. During these visits, doctors look out for warning signs that could indicate future issues. 

A good analogy would be taking care of a car engine – we don’t wait till the engine breaks down completely before getting an oil change do we? Same principle applies to our 'human engines' aka our lungs. Contact your local hospital or doctor today to find more about possible screenings.

Breathe Easier by Avoiding Outdoor Pollutants on Bad Air Days

Ever been out on a smoggy day and felt like you're breathing through a wet cloth? That's because outdoor pollutants can make it difficult for your lungs to function. Regular check-ups help identify if such exposures have caused any harm. Here’s an interesting fact: Did you know that over time, exposure to bad air can cause chronic inflammation in the lung tissue, making breathing difficult?

Regular Check-ups, Early Detection

Your lungs are silent heroes - they need regular attention to function at their best. Catching potential problems early through check-ups can prevent serious lung diseases like COPD or cancer. Plus, during Healthy Lung Month in October, many clinics offer free screenings. 

It's a wrap on our Healthy Lung Month guide. We've covered the importance of effective breathing techniques like 'Pursed Lip Breathing' and 'Box Breathing’ from Dr. Rahe in New York City. Both can optimize your lung health. We also highlighted how posture impacts lung function. No more hunching, folks!  Remember, thoracic extension exercises are key to maintaining good postural health and optimal lung function. The Backbridge can be a handy tool that supports these crucial exercises for better posture and enhanced lungs.