Tips to Improve Breathing

You may be asking yourself why you need to improve your breathing. It’s a fair question. After all, at rest, you take 12 – 16 breaths per minute without even thinking about it. So just imagine what your breathing would be like if you were to start thinking about how you do it. Here you’ll find 5 top tips to improve breathing.

Begin by breathing more deeply. Don’t breathe from your chest but from your abdomen instead; your diaphragm. Your diaphragm is your main breathing muscle. It’s the one you really need to think about utilising when you breathe.

Unlike diaphragmatic breathing, chest breathing means you’ll only be taking in shallow breaths. Consequently, it doesn’t provide your body with the amount of oxygen it needs to function properly. As a result, chest breathing will take a toll on your body. Unfortunately, many of us will be chest breathers, as we lead busy lives and are constantly in a state of flight or fight. In addition to the lifestyle we lead, we may also chest breathe because of a poor posture. In fact, because more of us are working on screens – from mobiles to desktops – ‘screen-apnoea’ is fast becoming a new world condition.

Screen apnoea, poor posture – in fact, many things, can result in poor breathing habits. But there are ways to improve your breathing.

Tips to improve breathing

  1. Use Google’s new 1-minute Breathing Exercise tool. Search for ‘deep breathing’ or ‘breathing exercise(s)’ to get a 1-minute guided mindfulness exercise to control your breathing.
  2. Exercise your breathing muscles with Inspiratory Muscle Training.
  3. Learn to sing! It’ll help you to control your breathing.
  4. Improve your posture. Stand up straight and draw your shoulders up, back and down.
  5. Exercise to a level where speaking becomes difficult. This will improve your body’s ability to use oxygen.

Your lungs and exercise

It is well known that being active is good for you. If performed on a regular basis, it will improve your quality of life. In fact, regular exercise will also help you maintain a healthy heart and a healthy weight. Consequently, regular exercise helps to reduce the risk of serious illness. Furthermore, it helps to keep your lungs healthy too.

The European Respiratory Society has a fact sheet, that is free for all, about how exercise affects your lungs. It also explains how breathing is influenced by activity. Finally, it discusses the benefits of exercise for people with and without a lung condition. It is called Your Lungs and Exercise.

Are you a chest breather?

Place your left hand on your chest. Now place your right hand on your abdomen. Breathe in and see which hand rises more. If it’s your right hand, you’re breathing using your diaphragm. However, if your left-hand rises more, you are breathing from your chest.

If you’re breathing using your diaphragm, then you’re breathing as nature intended. However, if you’re a chest breather, then you’re not pulling the air into the base of your lungs. Consequently, this shallow breathing will affect your health. It creates tension in your body that can lead to all sorts of everyday problems.

Whether you’re breathing from the diaphragm or chest, you will still benefit from exercising your breathing muscles. Training these muscles with inspiratory muscle training will result in improvements such as breathing strength and stamina. In turn, it will reduce breathing fatigue and you’ll be able to do more, with less effort. So it’s definitely worth trying out our tips to improve breathing. Always check with a healthcare professional first, before starting any form of exercise.

Beat Flu Symptoms this Winter

Influenza, or flu as it’s more commonly known, is around all year. However here in the U.K. at this time of year we start thinking about ‘seasonal flu’, so called because it is common in the winter months.

Symptoms

Main symptoms include a high temperature, feeling tired and achy, and a chesty cough. All of these things start suddenly. The symptoms may appear similar to a cold, but flu is a very different set of viruses. And symptoms are more severe and longer lasting. Speak to your GP if you are concerned.

Flu can leave you exhausted, especially when you are suffering from a chesty cough. It can interrupt your sleep so you wake feeling tired. However coughing is actually nature’s way of clearing your lungs. It helps to expel irritants and secretions and prevent infection.

How you catch flu

Droplets that travel in the air from a cough or a sneeze will contain the virus. And anyone who comes into contact from these droplets can catch the flu. This can happen from breathing in the droplets. It is also transmitted after touching surfaces that droplets have landed on and then touching your nose or mouth.

Prevention and treatment

An annual flu vaccine is available in the autumn, from the beginning of October to November. You can also help to prevent spreading the virus by washing your hands regularly, cleaning surfaces to rid them of germs, and by using a tissue to cough or sneeze into.

Expelling sticky mucus from your chest

Mucus clearance devices ‘shake’ the congestion in your chest. This effectively loosens it so that you can expel it. They complement regular medication because they have no side-effects or drug interactions. The Shaker devices by POWERbreathe are easy to use by both adults and children (under supervision). In fact regular use of the Shaker of between 5 to 15 minutes will produce benefits equivalent to that delivered by physiotherapy techniques.

2017 worst flu season in history

This year the NHS is bracing itself for the worst flu season in history. But you can prepare yourself by managing your symptoms at home:

  • Stay hydrated
  • Keep warm
  • Rest
  • Speak to your pharmacist about over the counter remedies for aches and pains
  • Use your Shaker by POWERbreathe mucus clearance device for thinning and dislodging mucus so that you’re able to expel it

Menopause & Lung Function Decline

New research finds that menopausal women may experience an increase in lung function decline. Menopause is Associated with Accelerated Lung Function Decline is published in the American Journal of Respiratory and Critical Care Medicine.

Cause of the menopause

As a woman gets older the balance in her sex hormones changes. The ovaries stop producing so much of the hormone oestrogen. This causes what we know as the menopause. Furthermore these changing levels of oestrogen, progesterone and testosterone play a role in age-related inflammation. And although we don’t yet fully understand why, it appears that this decrease in oestrogen corresponds with a rise in the cytokines interleukin-1 and interleukin-6. This changes the rate at which new bone forms and is a leading indicator of osteoporosis.

Lung function decline

It’s this systemic inflammation that is associated with lung function decline. This is because osteoporosis shortens the height of the chest vertebrae. Consequently this limits the amount of air that can be inhaled.

The researchers say that lung function decline in menopausal women is comparable to smoking 20 cigarettes a day for 10 years. And researcher Kai Triebner at the Department of Clinical Science, University of Bergen (UiB), Norway says that “The decline in lung function may cause an increase in shortness of breath, reduced work capacity and fatigue.”

Maintain respiratory health during and after menopause

The study shows this lung function decline exceeded the expected age-related decline. And because women are living longer beyond the menopause, it is important to maintain respiratory health. The study suggests that clinicians should be aware that respiratory health often deteriorates during reproductive ageing.

Reducing lung function decline

Healthy lungs have a large breathing reserve. But if you have reduced lung function you may use a large part of your breathing reserve. And it’s this that will make you feel short of breath. However regular physical exercise can help improve your lung function. In addition breathing exercises such as POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) are also beneficial.

POWERbreathe IMT can help

POWERbreathe IMT exercises your inspiratory muscles; the muscles you use to breathe in. These are mainly your diaphragm and intercostal muscles.

As you breathe in through the POWERbreathe IMT device your breathing has to work harder. This is because you are breathing in against a resistance. This resistance is adjustable so you are able to challenge yourself as your breathing becomes easier. And because you are exercising your breathing muscles they become stronger. And with stronger breathing muscles your breathing stamina improves too. Furthermore breathing fatigue will reduce. This means you’ll be able to do more with less effort. So the increase in shortness of breath, reduction in work capacity and fatigue that is highlighted in the study as a result of the menopause will reduce.

Phlegm in lungs – clear naturally with drug-free Shaker

You will usually find phlegm in the back of the throat or in the lungs. It is produced by the lower airways. Mucus on the other hand will normally be found in the mucous membranes inside the nose. It acts like a filter protecting your lungs as you inhale. To clear it you simply blow your nose. Phlegm however is thicker and more viscous. You usually only notice it when you cough it up. An excess of this secretion can be a symptom of a respiratory problem such as bronchitis.

Why you should cough up phlegm

Although unpleasant, you can safely swallow mucus. This is because your body can safely reabsorb it. Phlegm however must be expelled from the body. Advice from healthcare professionals is to cough it up. This is because it will contain virus and dead bacteria. As you cough it up you are helping your body to get rid of the infection.

What to do when phlegm is problematic

Secretions will be more of a problem at night. This is simply because of gravity. These secretions will feel heavy in your chest. This can bring on coughing. You can allieviate this by elevating your sleeping position. Simply prop yourself up more with a pillow. Coughing is actually your body’s natural way of expelling the phlegm. This will help you to get better.

Expel phlegm with drugs – or drug-free

Expectorants can be prescribed to help increase bronchial secretion. They are intended to help make it easier to cough it up. But expectorants are medicines. Shaker by POWERbreathe however is an effective drug-free alternative.

Expel phlegm naturally with the Shaker

The Shaker by POWERbreathe literally ‘shakes’ secretions in your chest to make them more mobile. The shaking breaks these secretions down and makes it easier for you to cough it up.

How the Shaker works

Inside the Shaker device is a weighted ball. As you breathe in through the device the ball rises and then falls again under its own weight. This happens quickly and feels like vibrations. This vibration and gentle resistance dislodges and thins phlegm. You’re then more able to expel it by coughing.

Who can use the Shaker

Because the Shaker is drug-free and easy-to-use, children and adults can use it. And because it shakes up phlegm, it is ideal for people with respiratory problems. These include Chronic Bronchitis, Bronchiectasis, Emphysema, Asthma and Cystic Fibrosis. There are however some precautions which you will find on the Shaker Classic, Shaker Deluxe and Shaker Plus product pages.

Pitcher’s neck muscles got so big due to not breathing properly

“A possible reason Harvey’s neck muscles have gotten so big is because Harvey is not breathing properly.” Well with a statement like this we just had to find out more from this news story! It turns out that American professional baseball pitcher Matt Harvey has had to end the season with surgery to treat his Thoracic Outlet Syndrome (TOS) – a disorder that occurs when the blood vessels or nerves in the space between the collarbone and first rib (thoracic outlet) become compressed. It seems that Harvey may have been using his neck and chest muscles to breathe as opposed to using his main breathing muscle, the diaphragm. It’s been suggested that it would be beneficial for someone with TOS to perform exercises “that will reinforce using the diaphragm more to breathe in and out.” POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) can help with this by training the inspiratory muscles, the diaphragm and intercostals, to work harder. Watch How It Works > Breathing in against the calibrated and variable load on the POWERbreathe IMT device makes the inspiratory muscles work harder, progressively. This progressive increase in breathing load builds breathing strength and stamina which results in these main respiratory muscles being more resistant to fatigue when called upon not only to help with breathing but also with core stability. By using POWERbreathe IMT you’re doing exactly what has been suggested, and that is reinforcing the diaphragm more to breathe in. PHOTO SOURCE: By Keith Allison on Flickr (Originally posted to Flickr as “Zack Greinke”) [CC BY-SA 2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons

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If climbing stairs leaves you breathless

This article in Psychology Today discovers why even the fittest of people can feel breathless when they climb the stairs.

Does being breathless mean you need to hit the gym?

Well we are told in the article that even marathon runners get winded when they fly up the stairs at pace. And so feeling out of breath is clearly nothing to do with physical fitness.

It’s your brain that’s the issue

It turns out that rather than being unfit it’s your brain that’s telling you to stop breathing. Psychology Today tells us that we (and some animals) breathe more slowly when concentrating on a specific task. This applies to running up the stairs.

How the brain affects our breathing

Apparently we combine a small burst of oxygen consumption by our muscles with a small burst of oxygen deprivation through our reduced breathing. This, the article tells us, results in our blood oxygen plummeting. Then, when you reach the top of the stairs, the brain sends a message to breathe rapidly to replace the missing oxygen.

The solution

The article suggests that we concentrate on taking deep breaths as we approach a flight of steps. POWERbreathe breathing muscle training will help you to do just that. It will also help when you’re running up the steps. This is because POWERbreathe breathing training exercises your breathing muscles. It will make your breathing muscles stronger, reducing fatigue. It improves breathing stamina too. So with improved breathing strength and stamina you will breathe more easily.

The science bit

Clinical trials show that POWERbreathe breathing muscle training reduces breathlessness and restores breathing power. It has also been clincially proven to increase breathing muscle strength by up to 45%.

The supporting studies

Specificity and Reversibility of Inspiratory Muscle Training Effects of controlled inspiratory muscle training in patients with COPD

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Obesity doesn’t have to prevent you from being physically active

The World Obesity Federation predicts that if current trends continue, 2.7 billion adults will be overweight by 2025. Almost every country in the world is experiencing the effects of the obesity epidemic. And the World Obesity Federation believe that overweight and obesity levels will continue to rise.

Obesity and physical activity

People who are obese often experience shortness of breath. And they experience this not just during exercise but also at rest. This is a result of the extra weight on their chest. It’s this extra weight that impedes the action of the inspiratory muscles. As a result obese people are less able to exercise effectively. And so begins a viscous cycle of not exercising and consequent detraining of the breathing muscles.

Study shows POWERbreathe IMT is helpful

A recent study found that POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (IMT) improves the functional fitness of obese adults.

Objective of this study

The purpose of this study is to look into improving functional fitness in adults with obesity. It examines the efficacy of inspiratory muscle training (IMT). The study uses POWERbreathe IMT as a non-intrusive and practical intervention. Researchers used POWERbreathe IMT to stimulate improved functional fitness in adults with obesity.

Study method

The study randomly assigns 67 obese adults into two groups. One is an experimental group. The other is a placebo group. The experimental group were asked to perform 4-weeks of POWERbreathe IMT set to 55% of maximum inspiratory effort. The placebo group were also asked to perform 4-weeks of POWERbreathe IMT, but set to 10% of maximum inspiratory effort.

Study results

The experimental group showed significant improvements in inspiratory muscle strength. They were also able to significantly extend post training walking distance. By contrast the placebo group did not show any improvements.

Conclusions

Findings suggest that POWERbreathe IMT provides a practical, self-administered intervention to improve the functional fitness of obese adults. Furthermore their findings show that it is suitable for use in the home environment. Finally the study suggests that it could lead to better preparedness for engagement in physical activity. Efficacy of inspiratory muscle training as a practical and minimally intrusive technique to aid functional fitness among adults with obesity.

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How To Keep Your Lungs Healthy With Exercise

Exercise – or any physical activity – will help to improve your quality of life. Even if you’re not very active doing something physical will help. And if you have a lung condition and are finding breathing difficult, the European Lung Foundation believe exercise will help. Exercise will also help to keep your lungs healthy. However you must always check with your doctor first before engaging in any form of exercise or physical activity.

How exercise affects your lungs

When doing any form of physical activity your muscles will have to work harder than normal. Because of this your body will require and use more oxygen and produce more carbon dioxide. In order to achieve this your heart and lungs work together. It’s your heart that pumps the oxygen to your working muscles. And it’s your lungs that bring oxygen into your body in the first place. Your lungs are also responsible for getting rid of the waste product, carbon dioxide. This is created as you produce energy.

How exercise affects your breathing

Because your muscles are working harder during an activity, your breathing demand increases. You may experience this as feeling ‘out of breath’ and you may need to ‘catch your breath’. When you have healthy lungs you are usually able to cope with this extra demand. But if you have reduced lung function then this extra demand will leave you more ‘short of breath’. This is when breathing feels uncomfortable.

You can help your lungs cope with extra breathing demands

The more exercise you do, the more efficient your lungs will become. But if your breathing prevents you from exercising, then POWERbreathe IMT can help. If you have a breathing problem or reduced lung function then you must talk to your doctor before using POWERbreathe. Please also read our Precautions and Contraindications.

How POWERbreathe IMT can help

POWERbreathe is an inspiratory muscle training device. This means it trains the muscles you use to breathe in; your inspiratory muscles. Your inspiratory muscles help your lungs breathe in as much air as possible. These muscles are mainly your diaphragm and the muscles between your ribs, your intercostal muscles.

How POWERbreathe IMT works

POWERbreathe IMT uses the principles of resistance training. Resistance training makes muscles stronger. POWERbreathe IMT provides you with a variable resistance that you breathe in against. This makes your breathing muscles work harder when breathing in. Because your breathing muscles are being subjected to this training stimulus they become stronger. And with stronger breathing muscles you will have more breathing stamina too. Watch our video that explains How POWERbreathe Works.

How POWERbreathe IMT helps you exercise more

Just like any form of exercise training, the more you do the stronger you become. POWERbreathe IMT will increase your breathing strength. It will improve your breathing stamina. And it will reduce your breathing fatigue. This means it will help you exercise for longer with less effort. With regular POWERbreathe IMT training your breathing muscles will be more efficient. Exercise will become easier. And the more you exercise the more you decrease the risk of developing major illnesses and lower your risk of early death. The more you exercise the more you improve your physical and psychological wellbeing, and quality of life. The European Lung Foundation (ELF) have put together a leaflet about Your Lungs And Exercise which contains more helpful information.

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Effects Of Ramadan Fasting On Inspiratory Muscle Function

Recent research published in the Asian Journal Of Sports Medicine investigated the effects of Ramadan fasting on respiratory muscle strength. During the summer months Ramadan fasting can be a major challenge for those who wish to exercise, with evidence indicating that it causes higher subjective ratings of perceived exertion (RPE), the mechanisms for which it says are not exactly known and the role of respiratory muscle strength has not been studied. Therefore the aim of this study was to investigate the effects of Ramadan fasting on respiratory muscle strength and results found that it may cause reduction of respiratory muscle strength through reduction of body weight. It also concluded that further larger sample size studies with control of all confounding factors are required in order to know the effect of fasting on respiratory muscle strength. Until such future studies are conducted there is something that can be done in order to help those who wish to exercise and are fasting at Ramadan to keep up the strength of their breathing muscles: POWERbreathe breathing muscle training. POWERbreathe exercises the breathing muscles using resistance training to make them stronger, improving breathing stamina and reducing fatigue. So although physically working out can be a drain on the body when ‘fuel’ is reduced through fasting, POWERbreathe breathing training can still be performed, keeping the integrity of the individual’s fitness at a strong level. This is hugely beneficial for those exercising once the holy month of fasting is over as when they begin their fitness regimen again. Read Effects of Ramadan Fasting on Inspiratory Muscle Function >

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Give Your Breath Some TLC

MyFitnessPal (the free system that helps everyone achieve good health) recently posted an article about the benefits of breathing correctly, ‘5 Benefits of Breathing Correctly’, saying we can all reap the benefits of deep, full breathing if we were to all get into the habit of practicing it every day. Correct breathing, breathing from your diaphragm, “can enable you to harness the full potential of your pulmonary system to intake and distribute oxygen throughout your body.” It can also benefit you emotionally, psychologically and physically. Research suggests that during heavy exercise, blood flow (and therefore oxygen delivery) to the exercising legs is inversely related to respiratory work. This means that the inspiratory muscles (the muscles used to breathe in i.e. mainly your diaphragm and intercostal muscles) are capable of stealing blood from your locomotor muscles, and in so doing, impair your performance. POWERbreathe Inspiratory Muscle Training (breathing trainers) specifically targets these inspiratory muscles and exercises them against an adjustable resistance to make them stronger day-by-day. Increasing the strength of your breathing muscles will improve your breathing stamina and reduce fatigue so that you can harness your body’s full potential! The scientifically established training regimen for POWERbreathe is to simply take 30 breaths twice a day making it an easy habit to include in your day.

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