You probably don’t think about your lungs regularly unless you have a chronic lung condition like asthma or emphysema. But it’s essential not to take healthy lungs for granted. They’re part of a rather complex system that provides your body with the oxygen it needs to survive. In honor of Lung Awareness Month, here are some tips for keeping your lungs healthy throughout your life.

Avoid smoking.

It’s true that some smokers never develop lung issues, while some others with lung cancer have never smoked. But smoking is the number one risk factor for lung conditions ranging from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) to lung cancer. If you’ve never smoked, don’t start! If you smoke, quit. You’ll see health benefits immediately, and your lungs will continue to heal in the months and years that follow.

Reduce your risk of infection.

From the flu to COVID-19, respiratory illnesses can cause significant damage to the lungs. Get vaccinated, mask up, and avoid crowds. Also, pay attention to your dental health, as bacteria from infected teeth can make their way into your respiratory passages.

Minimize irritating pollutants.

Both indoor and outdoor air pollution can irritate and inflame your lungs. Reduce the amount of time you spend outside on days when pollution levels are high. Never exercise close to a busy highway. Consider using a high-quality air purifier indoors, or at least a highly rated air filter in your air conditioner. Never let anyone smoke inside, lower indoor humidity levels, choose less hazardous common household chemicals, and fix all leaks and drips to reduce mold.

Strengthen your lungs with exercise.

Healthy adults should get at least 30 minutes of moderate exercise at least five days per week. Choose a combination of muscle-building, aerobic, and targeted breathing exercises. And remember, you don’t have to embark on a formal exercise program. Gardening, housekeeping, biking, and even walking can form the core of your physical activity. The rule of thumb is, do whatever gets you moving! 

If you have an existing lung condition, talk to your doctor about a personalized exercise program. Even those with chronic lung issues can benefit from getting their lungs as healthy as possible. Your doctor may be able to suggest targeted activities that expand your lung capacity and minimize symptoms.