Importance of proper breathing in the aging process

Every system in our body relies on oxygen. From cognition to ignition, effective breathing helps us with a greater sense of mental clarity, helps us sleep better, and digest food more efficiently. Well, who would have thought that breathing has other such functions apart from keeping us alive, right? Breathing also helps us to improve our body’s immune response and reduce stress levels. Yes! Simple breathing is indeed a stress buster! How oblivious had we been?

There is a marked variation in the effect of aging on lung function. Aging is associated with a reduction in chest wall compliance and increased air trapping. In simple words, as we age our body organs also age with us. And that causes some vital changes, especially on our lungs and breathing patterns. Aging results in changes in the body and have a significant effect on our lungs. Some of the body changes that affect our lungs are:


Changes to the bones and muscles of the chest and spine:


•As we age, our bones become thinner and change shape. This can change the shape of our ribcage. As a result, the ribcage cannot expand and contract as well during breathing. 

•The muscle that supports breathing, the diaphragm, becomes weakened. This weakness may These changes in our bones and muscles may lower the oxygen level in our body. Also, less carbon dioxide may be removed from our bodies. 


Changes to lung tissues:


•Our muscles and other tissues may lose their ability to keep airways completely open. This causes the airways to close easily. Also, aging may result in our air sacs to lose their shape and become baggy.  

These changes may result in the entry of too little oxygen in the blood vessels and less carbon dioxide may be removed. This makes it hard for us to breathe.


Changes to the Immune system:


•Our Immune system can get weaker. This means that our body is less able to fight lung infections and other diseases. Also, our lungs are less able to recover after exposure to smoke or harmful particles.


Common Problems faced by old people due to these changes:


•Lung infections, such as pneumonia and bronchitis.

•Shortness of breath.

•Low oxygen level.

•Abnormal breathing patterns resulting in problems such as sleep apnea (episodes of stopped breathing during sleep)

Thereby it is necessary for us to practice proper breathing in order to prevent such issues that occur due to aging. Some of the effective breathing exercises that we could follow in order to prevent respiratory issues are:

Complete Breathing:


This is the most effective breathing pattern we could follow. Sit up straight and exhale. Inhale and relax the stomach muscles. Feel the belly expand as the lungs fill with air. Keep breathing until the chest expands with a deep breath. Hold the breath for a moment and exhale slowly, pulling the belly in to feel the last bit of air leaving the lungs. Close the eyes, relax, and concentrate on breathing like this for five minutes. 


Humming Breathing:


Follow the instructions the same as for complete breathing, but exhaling, hum as the air is released from the body. Pull the belly muscles, as you hum last air out of your body. Relax and practice this exercise for two to three minutes.


Diaphragmatic Breathing:


The easiest way to practice this breathing exercise is to lien on the back. Place one hand over the navel and the other hand above it on the stomach. Now, concentrate on breathing from the diaphragm. If the hand over the navel is rising before the hand above it, the exercise is being done correctly. Relax and concentrate on breathing for five minutes. 


Feet Breathing:


This is as much a relaxation technique as it is a breathing technique. Concentrate on breathing as the chest and diaphragm rise and fall in tandem. Breathe at a normal speed and allow yourself to clear the mind. As exhaling, imagine the stress and tension travel down the body and leaving through feet. Repeat until relaxed. 

Aging has a great impact on bodily functions, especially on breathing. These changes may also lead to severe respiratory issues if not taken care of properly. Hence, it is utterly necessary to have a proper breathing pattern to overcome such issues. Taking deep breaths can help to voluntarily regulate the ANS, which may have many benefits -especially lowering heart rate, regulating blood pressure, and would help to relax, all of which help how much of the stress hormone cortisol is released into the body.

We have to take care of ourselves in order to prevent ourselves from being prey to unnecessary health complications. Aging is a natural process, and we all may age one day or another. And, as we grow old, we should give more attention to ourselves. And, breathing is one such thing, which we often choose to ignore. What we don’t know is that proper breathing could actually protect us from a lot of health issues, along with age-related respiratory diseases. Who would have thought right? Breathing, was actually a free medicine right?