Keeping your lungs strong and healthy requires a fitness regimen that incorporates steady doses of cardiovascular exercise. Jogging is an ideal exercise for improving lung function for a number of reasons. For example, it doesn't require a lot of special equipment, you don't need a year-round gym membership to go for a run and jogging can be incorporated into the busiest of schedules thanks to its flexible nature.
According to the American Lung Association, most adults inhale and exhale as many as 15 to 20 times a minute. That adds up to more than 20,000 breaths in a single day. The lungs are a key component of the respiratory system, along with the throat, trachea (windpipe) and nose. When you inhale, nourishing oxygen enters your bloodstream, infiltrating every cell in your body and providing the "fuel" necessary to allow you to do everything from brew your morning coffee to lace up your running shoes for a jaunt around the block.
Lungs and Exercise
By engaging in an aerobic activity such as jogging, you will improve your overall health as you fine-tune your lung capacity and, in turn, your ability to exercise at higher intensities as your fitness progresses. Jeremy Barnes, associate professor of health management at Southeast Missouri State University, says, "One of the largest differences between an exerciser and a nonexerciser concerns the heart's ability to pump blood and consequently delivery oxygen to working muscles. In addition, an exerciser typically has a larger blood volume, is better able to extract oxygen from the air in the lungs and is better able to extract oxygen from the blood at the working muscles than a sedentary individual is."
Even if you start your jogging program by alternating periods of running with brisk walking, you are doing your lungs a great service by increasing their ability to do their specialized work of transporting oxygen through the body. The American Lung Association has many tips for improving overall cardiovascular fitness and highly recommends jogging as an integral part of a lung-strengthening routine. Aim to jog three to five times per week, if possible. If cold or hot weather limits your ability to jog outdoors, look for a gym or studio that offers treadmill workouts. Pay close attention to your body's cues. If you are ready for a longer, more intense workout go for it -- but if you are more comfortable at a slower pace or alternating jogging with brisk walking, stay at that point until you can safely advance.
Special Considerations: Exercise-Induced Asthma
Exercise-induced asthma is common, according to the Mayo Clinic. It occurs when the airways constrict during aerobic activity such as jogging and produce excess mucous, causing a feeling of tightness in the chest. If you have experienced this, or know you are prone to it, consult your doctor and make sure you have fast-acting asthma-relief medication on hand at all times. If you do suffer from this condition, take heart -- it doesn't mean you have to be a lifelong couch potato. The Mayo Clinic points out, "...having exercise-induced asthma doesn't mean you shouldn't exercise. Proper treatment of exercise-induced asthma and precautions can keep you active -- whether you're strolling through the park or running a race."
Michelle Kodis has been a writer and editor for more than two decades. She holds a master's degree in journalism from Columbia University, is the author of nine books and has contributed articles to various magazines, newspapers and blogs. She is also a certified Pilates instructor and studies canine therapeutic massage/acupressure.