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What Healthy Lungs Can Do For You

Life is better when you breathe easier

See how Brewers' athletic trainer Jeff Paxson keeps up with the team while managing his asthma.

Chances are you don't think much about your lungs. This reliable pair works hard for you all the time, helping you breathe 12 to 15 times a minute at rest—that's more than 6 million breaths a year. If our lungs could talk, they would ask us to please help them stay healthy so we can do more wonderful things such as:

Speak Up: We couldn't talk, cheer or sing if air wasn't forced through our vocal chords, helping them vibrate. To do that, lungs also team up with our throat, voice box, tongue and lips. Together they let us verbally communicate the things we need to when we need to do them.

Root for the Team: Think of the fun you have while expelling air from your lungs. For example, football is America's most popular sport to watch, followed by baseball, basketball and soccer. Psychologists say that cheering for your team provides a sense of belonging and being connected to other people. There's a reason why yelling and cheering "at the top of your lungs" feels so good—especially when you're winning.

Laugh It Off: Another vocal expulsion of air, a good chuckle can immediately reduce stress and tension, and longer-term, it may also strengthen your immune system, reduce pain, give you hope to cope and boost mood.

Blow Them Out: Another birthday? Good for you, and may you have many more. You need strong, healthy lungs to blow out those candles, adding one each year. "Happy birthday to you!"

Hold It Right There: Without your lungs, you couldn't hold your breath. That means sports like swimming and diving would be nearly impossible when your face is in the water. Lungs don't work alone here, for when you don't want to breathe, sensors in your brain, blood vessels, and muscles join lungs to temporarily halt your air intake.

Move It: If you're a devoted exercise fan, you know that vigorous physical activity is good for you, with doctor approval, of course. To do it, you need healthy lungs to handle increased respiration as your lungs—along with heart and muscles—work harder. "Vigorous" means hiking, jogging at 6 mph, cycling at 14 mph and above and playing basketball or soccer or tennis singles. You'll know it's "vigorous" if you can't say more than a few words without stopping for a breath.

If you exercise regularly, you'll increase strength and function of all your muscles, and their efficiency. They'll require less oxygen to move and so they'll produce less carbon dioxide. This means you've immediately reduced how much air you require for breathing when you exercise.

Get moving at any level and you'll improve circulation, strengthen your heart and help reduce both heart disease and heart attack risk, as you also help your brain stay sharper.


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