By holding your breath for as long as is comfortable (assuming you have no serious medical conditions), you can help improve lung capacity over time. “If you’re healthy, you’re not pregnant, and you’ve got no serious medical conditions, do some breath holds,” suggests breathing expert and bestselling author Patrick McKeown on the mindbodygreen podcast. “You take a normal breath in and out through your nose, pinch your nose, and hold. Then start walking with the breath hold and go into a jog. Keep going until the air hunger is quite strong, and then let go.” Perhaps start with a simple walk, working your way up to a jog after a few sessions.
Essentially, this exercise reduces your carbon dioxide sensitivity, which is an important marker for respiratory strength. “What that can do is increase carbon dioxide in the blood, and it can help reduce your sensitivity to the gas,” McKeown adds. “That’s something we use a lot with athletes, but it does more than that: It will open up the nose; it will open up the lungs; it will increase blood flow to the brain.” What’s more: Pair a breathwork practice with cryotherapy, á la Wim Hofand research has shown the practice can help control the stress response and increase pain tolerance.