12 ways and exercises to manage your respiratory health during end of winters | Health - Hindustan Times
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12 ways and exercises to manage your respiratory health during end of winters

ByZarafshan Shiraz, New Delhi
Feb 17, 2024 03:23 PM IST

Here are some tips, exercises and breathing techniques to keep away flu, sinuses, cold and cough and help manage your respiratory health as the winters end

The end of winters are here and as much as we enjoy the last of the cold weather, there are people who get sick due to the weather change which includes flu, sinuses, cold and cough etc. On the other hand, people with known respiratory illness face a lot of challenges with regular breathing function especially in cities but sweat not as we got an expert on board to discuss more about pulmonary function, respiratory health and how breathing exercises can be an aid.

12 ways and exercises to manage your respiratory health during end of winters (Photo by Freepik)
12 ways and exercises to manage your respiratory health during end of winters (Photo by Freepik)

In an interview with HT Lifestyle, Priya Singh, Women’s Health Physiotherapist and Lactation Consultant at Cloudnine Group of Hospitals, in Navi Mumbai's Vashi, highlighted the common concerns people face with most of the respiratory illness when combined -

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  • Breathlessness ( Dyspnea )
  • Cough, sputum secretions
  • Weight loss
  • Generalised fatigue
  • Chest pain
  • Fever followed by an infection
  • Noisy breathing (wheezes), most common in patients with Obstructive lung disease and Asthma.

Priya Singh said, “Breathing is one of the automated function for humans for living but no one has ever thought about the numerous benefit breathing consciously would have on lungs and over all respiratory health.” She explained:

  1. Breathing exercise helps with generalized fatigue
  2. Provides relief from Breathlessness ( Dyspnea) by improving oxygenation
  3. Improves respiratory muscle function and strength
  4. Helps in clearing out secretions and sputum
  5. Relaxes body through reducing elevated blood pressure and heart rate

Asserting that maintaining respiratory health during winter is important since cold and dry air can have an impact on the respiratory system, Priya Singh suggested some tips to help you manage your respiratory health -

  1. Stay Warm and Layered: Dress warmly to protect yourself from the cold air. Use layers to trap heat and prevent your body temperature from dropping too much.
  2. Stay Hydrated: Cold air can be drying to the respiratory passages. Drink plenty of water to stay hydrated and keep your mucous membranes moist.
  3. Use Humidifiers: Humidifiers add moisture to the air, which can be beneficial, especially in heated indoor environments. This helps prevent the airways from becoming too dry.
  4. Practice Good Hand Hygiene: Wash your hands regularly to reduce the risk of respiratory infections. Viruses that cause respiratory illnesses are more prevalent during the winter months.
  5. Avoid Smoke and Pollutants: Stay away from tobacco smoke and other pollutants, as they can irritate the respiratory system and worsen respiratory conditions.
  6. Exercise Regularly: Regular physical activity can help strengthen your respiratory muscles and improve lung function. However, if you have respiratory conditions, consult your healthcare provider before starting a new exercise program.
  7. Practice Deep Breathing Exercises: Engage in deep breathing exercises to improve lung capacity and promote better respiratory function.
  8. Maintain Indoor Air Quality: Ensure good ventilation in your home and avoid the use of strong chemicals or cleaning products that may irritate the respiratory system.
  9. Get Vaccinated: Consider getting vaccinated against respiratory infections, such as the flu. Consult with your healthcare provider for advice on vaccines that are appropriate for you.
  10. Eat a Balanced Diet: Consume a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. These foods provide essential nutrients that support overall health, including respiratory health.
  11. Manage Respiratory Conditions: If you have pre-existing respiratory conditions such as asthma or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD), work closely with your healthcare provider to manage and control your symptoms. Ensure that you have an action plan in place.
  12. Stay Informed: Be aware of air quality levels and weather conditions, especially if you have respiratory conditions that may be affected by changes in temperature and air quality.

Talking about the types of breathing exercises that are available to us to manage respiratory illness, Priya Singh explained -

  1. Diaphragmatic Breathing exercise - This breathing involves filling air in your lungs while you allow your abdomen to expand and gradually breath out and engage your abdomen inwards. This breathing exercise helps particularly with releasing tension around the intercostal muscles, relaxes he body by lowering blood pressure, provides energy to continue with activity of daily living.
  2. Pursed lip breathing - In this type of breathing you have to inhale deep and exhale gradually through your mouth, note that your exhalation time has to be more than inhalation. This breathing particularly with breathlessness, calms down the system. Mostly helpful in cases of asthma and COPD.
  3. Segmental expansion breathing exercise – This exercise as the name suggests is perform at particular segment, helps in conditions where there is accumulation of fluid around the segment of the lung like in pneumonia, improves chest wall movement, the aim remains to improve oxygenation and ventilation followed by underlying respiratory illness.

She revealed an another pulmonary rehabilitation program that includes the below breathing techniques -

  • Forced Expiratory Technique – also known as FET technique: As we can understand by the name of the technique this pattern of breathing is focusing on force full exhalation across the lung volumes, this technique of breathing helps with effective coughing and clearance of collected mucus.
  • Active Cycle of Breathing Technique – also known as ACBT technique: This pattern of breathing involves cyclic pattern breathing combining FET that is breathing for 5 times and controlling the same followed by again active cycle of 5 breaths and 2-3 FET Breathing ending with breath control , when performed in cyclic manner helps with mobilizing the mucus, improves lung volume and capacity.
  • Autogenic drainage: This technique of breathing is when you are breathing deeply through your nose keeping the rate and depth of it in mind during inspiration, which starts from the lowest segment of lung and moves towards apical segment. This technique has stages where it helps in providing great relief with chest congestion by mobilising the secretions.

Priya Singh concluded, “The above exercise are beneficial not only during winters but when practiced under guidance of a Physiotherapist can bring improvement in ones respiratory health. The atmosphere where you are practicing breathing exercise is equally important, so while you start performing make sure that you have good source of ventilation.”

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