The best exercises for healthy lungs

By Louise Belle BHSc (Nut Med)

Our lungs have the important duty of providing our bodies with oxygen and getting rid of excess carbon dioxide. Our bodies signal us to breathe without us even noticing, so it can be easy to take our lungs for granted. Lung conditions are common and many people suffer from conditions that limit their ability to breathe easily and effortlessly. Exercise is fantastic for improving lung health.

Deep breathing

Many people only take shallow breaths, which can cause toxins and stagnant air to accumulate in the lungs. Deep breathing allows the oxygen to reach the depths of the lungs and can help to remove these toxins. This is how you do it- breathe in slowly for about 5 seconds or until your lungs feel really full, then hold for a couple of seconds, then breathe out slowly and push out as much air as possible. Repeat this 5-10 times. If you feel a little dizzy, take it down a notch and hold your breath for less time.


Swimming is fantastic exercise for improving lung health. Swimming increases lung capacity and helps the lungs to work more efficiently. It is particularly beneficial for older people or those who have difficulty exercising as it is low-impact, but very effective. Free style stroke is the easiest and will teach you controlled breathing. Pop down to the beach or your local swimming pool for a few laps.

Walking/ jogging

Walking is a great form of aerobic exercise that can be done almost anywhere. A study found that in those with COPD, walking approximately 1.6 kms daily was associated with half the hospitalisations of those who didn’t walk regularly. Park your car a little further down the street and walk walk walk as much as you can! It all adds up and your lungs (and the rest of your body) will love you for it.

Standing chest expansion

Stand with your feet flat on the floor and your arms by your side. Breathe in and stretch your arms up towards the ceiling as high as you can, then breathe out as you lower your arms back to your side, and repeat. This exercise engages the diaphragm, stretches the muscles which lie between the ribs and can improve breathing capacity.


You don’t need to wear Lycra or purchase an expensive bike to reap the benefits of cycling. Cycling is a great form of aerobic exercise which strengthens the lungs and increases the intake of oxygen. It is also a low impact exercise for those with joint issues. Do yourself a favour and purchase a second-hand bike and ride around the block or put an exercise bike in your loungeroom and cycle whilst watching TV.

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