Inhale slowly and deeply. Let it out softly now. We do this easy behaviour all day long and rarely think about it. But it is essential to our survival. Every cell in our bodies requires oxygen, which may be found in the air we breathe.
This oxygen is taken in by our lungs, which then transport it to our bloodstream. Each cell in your body swaps oxygen for carbon dioxide, a "waste gas" that your bloodstream transports back to your lungs and exhales.
Even if you learned all of this in high school biology class, you probably haven't given your lungs much thought—until you've needed them.
While you may be aware that smoking, pollution, and viruses all harm your lungs, you may be unaware that obesity and stress might as well.
There's a reason why fat or overweight persons feel out of breath easily when climbing a flight of stairs or undertaking other physical activity.
Extra abdominal fat, in particular, prevents the diaphragm (a muscle wall between the chest and abdomen) from correctly drawing in air and expanding the lungs.
When you're stressed, your body releases hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can cause fast breathing. This is not harmful if your lungs are in good shape.
The lungs can't move as much air in and out as they should in chronic lung disorders like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) or asthma. This can make you feel panicked by increasing your shortness of breath.
Lung infections, malignancies, and other illnesses, including asthma, can be caused or worsened by both indoor and outdoor pollutants.
Because the effects of pollution on the body are exacerbated by the deep, fast breaths people take during physical exertion, it's especially crucial to avoid exercising outdoors in polluted air.
Infectious respiratory diseases, including flu, COVID-19, pneumonia, pertussis RSV, and the common cold can harm the lungs. This is especially problematic because these conditions spread easily from person to person.
Most types of lung infections can be treated, but they can also be dangerous for infants, seniors, and people who have a lung disease or a weakened immune system.