When we think of exercise, we are usually very focused on what the heart is doing. We want to know how many beats per minute it is going, how to speed up our heart rates or slow it down, whether that is for cardio or fat burning.
We buy fancy gadgets to track it all, then compare our results to our past data as we move forward in physical training.
We even compare those results to our friends and make a competition over whose heart is going fastest or who can remain in a certain heart rate zone the longest.
But there is another set of organs that are just as important as our heart rate when it comes to overall exercise performance and those are the lungs.
A major factor in the way the body functions during exercise, your lungs can be an exercise barrier if the heart’s blood flow is not working in concert with the lungs. These limitations can apply whether you are going for a run, lifting weights or doing a bit of yoga.
Let’s take a look at them both so you can have a clear idea on how they operate during exercise and how you can improve your lungs’ functionality during your exercises.
The Heart And Blood Flow
The heart is a remarkable and complex machine. Hundreds of thousands of times per day, the heart beats, sending blood pumping through the body. That blood runs from head to toe and operates almost every major function within human beings thanks to the transportation of oxygen.
When the heart begins to degrade, less blood is pumped and less oxygen is provided to the major and minor organs within the body.
Every cell within the body is pumped full of blood within one minute with a healthy heart but as the heart breaks down, less oxygen reaches the cells insider that time frame.
Exercise is a critical factor in the health and ability of the heart. Studies have shown that regular cardiovascular activity can reverse the damage to the heart found in middle-aged people.
Once blood is flowing at the correct rate once again, it will continue to nourish the lungs as well as the rest of the body the way it needs to be.
Functioning Lungs During Exercise
Did you know that the lungs have 600 million air sacs between them? They are called alveoli and they are responsible for filling the tiny, ever-important capillaries that are on the surface of the lungs. These capillaries assist in the transportation of oxygen.
When exercising, your lungs are pushed to the max as you breathe faster and harder. Those alveoli and capillaries fill faster and the rate of oxygen moving through the body is increased.
Other activities focus on breathing as well. For instance, meditation is dependent on breathing in and out at a certain rate.
Taking deep breaths helps to slow the mind and relax tension in the muscles. Taking fast, rapid breaths in other forms of meditation boost brain activity once again and wake the muscles up.
This intense connection between the way we breathe and the way our mind and body react shows how important the lungs really are in the process of any activity, beyond just breathing.
Improving Lung Function During Exercise
It isn’t hard to see, given all that information, that improving lung function is a good way to improve athletic performance overall. How do you do that? There are several options that are easy to work into your daily routine.
First, try the guided meditation. Most guided meditations use breathing as a way of checking in with the body and calming the mind.
They will gently lead you to perform different breaths at various depths and with different hold times. Eventually, you will find that your capacity and holding time is increasing.
Another tip is to quit smoking. Tobacco use has a serious impact on lung capacity and function, even in young people. If you are a smoker, you may have realized that no matter how long and hard you train, your breathing never gets easier.
Quit the habit and your health will improve in a myriad of ways. These include adding time to your life, recovering the damage done from years of tobacco use on both the lungs and heart and more physical stamina, among other things.
Finally, there is cardiovascular exercise. Amazing for the heart and muscles, it can help your lungs to improve their intake and improve how effectively oxygen is sent through the body’s blood flow. Though any cardio workout will do this, here are the six best:
- Running – Running is among the best of the best when it comes to cardio. Working many muscles through the body, it builds strength, tones, increases stamina and improves the health of several organs. Don’t be afraid to start out slow and work your way up if you are a beginner.
- Walking – Is running not your style or maybe it is too hard on your joints? Believe it or, walking can be just as beneficial as running when it comes to building up those lungs and increasing blood and oxygen flow. Try to walk every day and at a speed that makes talking at least slightly labored.
- Yoga – Yoga is so often seen as a soft option and yet it is so much more than stretching. The deep breathing and positions make lung capacity grow, while lengthening and strengthening muscle groups all over your body. At the same time, you get all the benefits of relaxation.
- Swimming – Known for being easy on the joints while really building and toning muscle, swimming is also fantastic for lung function. You are taking and holding deep breaths for extended periods of time, or taking short, quick breaths. At the same time, you are promoting a healthy heart through intense cardio.
- Aerobics – Aerobics are great because you can make adjustments that adapt exercises to your needs and level. But it is designed to get the heart pumping and make you breathe faster, deeper and with more purpose. If your joints can handle it, high-impact aerobics is especially effective.
- Bicycling – Riding a bike is a fun activity that many people choose as their exercise and recreation time, both. Because of the ability to either push or coast at different times, you can use it to train your breathing.
If you want to really help your body reach peak performance, don’t just focus on what your heart is doing and make sure to check in with your lungs.
Author Bio: Kevin Jones
Kevin Jones has mastered a busy lifestyle with work and fitness combined with family life. He writes offering solutions for personal fitness and time management as well as keeping families fit together by utilizing activities and diet. You can read more of Kevin’s writings by connecting with him online; LinkedIn – Twitter