Remember the last time you sat outside at a pub only for someone to smoke right next to you? Yeah, you were probably exposed to second-hand smoke. Or maybe the walk to the bus stop seemed a litter tougher than it used to be? Chances are your lungs might not be functioning quite right.
In 2018, it’s estimated there will be 12,741 new cases of lung cancer diagnosed while the survival rate is only 15.8 per cent. At least one quarter of all Australians suffer from a long-term respiratory condition.
Those figures ring alarm bells.
According to tobaccoinaustralia.org, for people who have never smoked and have a partner that smokes, the risk of developing lung cancer from second-hand smoke has been estimated to be 20-30%.
That means that smoking cigarettes is no longer the sole cause of lung disease.
Some of the most common lung diseases include:
Asthma – Constant inflammation of the airways, typically triggered by allergies, infections or pollution. Causes wheezing and shortness of breath.
Chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) – If you’re unable to exhale normally and have difficulty breathing. Typically referred to as the umbrella term for a number of lung diseases that prevent proper breathing.
Emphysema – Damaged lungs cause air to be trapped in the lungs results in difficulty breathing.
But fortunately many side effects of smoking and air pollution are reversible if acted upon quickly.
According to research published in the journal Breathe, your first step is to get moving – improve your lung capacity through aerobic exercise.
“If you have a long-term lung condition, the thought of becoming quickly out of breath can be daunting and you may not feel motivated to exercise,” writes the study.
“It can be tempting to avoid exercise because you think it will make you breathless, but if you do less activity you become less fit and daily activities will become even harder.”
Meanwhile, further research conducted by the Barcelona Institute of Global Health found vigorous physical activity can improve lung function, especially in smokers.
“The results of this study strengthen the epidemiological evidence supporting an association between physical activity and respiratory health,” says senior author and head of the Non-Communicable Diseases and Environment Programme at ISGlobal, Judith Garcia-Aymerich.
If you find yourself puffing and wheezing, especially after being sedentary, now’s the time more than ever to get your lung health in check and make vital lifestyle changes. Otherwise you could end up as part of an ever-growing statistic.
Getting started is easy: try this 10 minute cardio workout that will get your VO2 capacity up in no time.