Health Preventive Health 5 Smart Habits for Strong, Healthy Lungs What to do—and what not to do—to fortify those lungs during flu season (or any season). By Samantha Lande Samantha Lande Instagram Twitter Website Samantha is a freelance writer who covers health, nutrition, wellness, and has contributed to national and international publications for over a decade. Real Simple's Editorial Guidelines Updated on January 17, 2023 Fact checked by Haley Mades Fact checked by Haley Mades Haley is a Wisconsin-based creative freelancer and recent graduate. She has worked as an editor, fact checker, and copywriter for various digital and print publications. Her most recent position was in academic publishing as a publicity and marketing assistant for the University of Wisconsin Press Our Fact-Checking Process Share Tweet Pin Email The past few years have been full of many lessons, perhaps none more important than being keenly aware about the air we breathe and how we take care of our body. We spend a lot of time talking about air quality in our homes, ways to boost our immunity, or the best ways to sanitize and kill germs. We don't often look inward to our lungs, the main organ in our respiratory function, along with the surrounding organs and muscles. With the flu, COVID-19, and other respiratory diseases ever present, it's important to do all we can to stay healthy—and that includes our lung health. The good news is that you may already be doing some of these things, as many have other health benefits as well. Here are five ways to keep your lungs strong and healthy at all times. Getty Images And of course, practice good hand washing, avoid those who are sick, and get vaccinated for COVID-19, the flu, and pneumonia (if of age) for further protection. 5 Easy Things You Can Do to Make Your Flu Shot Even More Effective 01 of 05 Exercise regularly. Exercise is key to so many pieces of our health, and it's equally as important to the strength of our lungs. "Our lungs are a pump," says Albert Rizzo, MD, FACP, chief medical officer of the American Lung Association. "[They're] dependent on the muscles in the chest cave. To keep those lungs pumping strong we need to keep our muscles in shape." Cardiovascular exercise is the best way to do that and requires no more than 20 to 30 minutes a day (or some equivalent spread out through the week). "You want to create an aerobic demand," says personal trainer Gunnar Peterson, CSCS, CPT. "This can be incline walking or even adding a few aerobic moves to your strength [training]." But don't fret if 20 to 30 minutes a day sounds overwhelming. "Give yourself credit for what you can do," Peterson says. "Start slowly and incrementally." Even if that means five minutes between conference calls to walk around the block—it doesn't have to be all at once. Walking is a great form of cardiovascular exercise, "helping to get to those deeper portions of our lungs," Dr. Rizzo says. RELATED: Exercise Is Essential for a Strong Immune System—These Health Experts Explain How Movement Can Boost Immunity 02 of 05 Up your vitamin D. We know that Vitamin D is important for the health of our bones, but it's also important for the health of our lungs. Research indicates that Vitamin D deficiency can cause deficits in lung function and even alter lung structure. If you're deficient, you can get vitamin D through foods like fatty fish, egg yolk, cheese, or Vitamin D supplements, if necessary (check in with your doctor before adding any supplements into the mix). This is especially important if you have something impairing your lungs like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) or asthma. 03 of 05 Work on breathing. Stress can wreak havoc on our bodies, and that includes our respiratory system. Deep breathing is beneficial for stress reduction, and diaphragmatic breathing and pursed-lip breathing can help increase lung capacity, especially after recovering from a respiratory infection like COVID-19 or something more chronic. "With a focus on being intentional with our breathing—inhaling and exhaling for a count of four, or belly breathing—you regain a sense of peace and reduce feelings of stress and anxiety," says Kelley Green, meditation instructor and mindset coach. "In stressful situations we sometimes forget to breathe." Here are five different types of breathing exercises to try to help calm your nervous system and exercise your lungs. 04 of 05 Get enough sleep. The jury is still out on exactly why sleep is good for our lungs, but lack of sleep can have a negative impact on our overall immune system. "We don't know the exact mechanisms behind it, but we do know that sleep is so important to many health issues, including the repair of muscles," says Dr. Rizzo. With a decreased immune system, we make ourselves more vulnerable to respiratory infections. 05 of 05 Avoid unhealthy habits. The final part of keeping those lungs strong and healthy is avoiding things that are just plain bad for them. Smoking cigarettes and vaping are no-nos, of course, but also be mindful of your exposure to fireplaces and wood burning stoves, which Dr. Rizzo says can lead to irritation in the airways. And when you do exercise, avoid places with poor air quality or massive crowds where you don't have space to, well, breathe. Avoid These Foods for a Healthier Heart, According to Experts Was this page helpful? Thanks for your feedback! Tell us why! Other Submit Sources Real Simple is committed to using high-quality, reputable sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts in our articles. Read our editorial guidelines to learn more about how we fact check our content for accuracy. Ahmad S, Arora S, Khan S, et al. Vitamin D and its therapeutic relevance in pulmonary diseases. J Nutr Biochem. 2021;90:108571. doi:10.1016/j.jnutbio.2020.108571. Yong MS, Lee HY, Lee YS. Effects of diaphragm breathing exercise and feedback breathing exercise on pulmonary function in healthy adults. J Phys Ther Sci. 2017;29(1):85-87. doi:10.1589/jpts.29.85. Besedovsky L, Lange T, Haack M. The sleep-immune crosstalk in health and disease. Physiol Rev. 2019;99(3):1325-1380. doi:10.1152/physrev.00010.2018.