Sign of lung disease? The average adult is left breathless 6x a week, just by doing light-to-moderate exercise
05/06/2018 // Michelle Simmons // Views

Normally, a person doing light-to-moderate exercise will not run out of breath. However, a study commissioned by the British Lung Foundation found that the average adult is left breathless six times a week by simply doing light-to-moderate physical activity.

In the study of 2,000 adults, researchers discovered that more than 25 percent of the participants exercise less than once a week, while one-third said they would not be able to run a mile even if their life relied on it. In addition, three out of 10 people reported that they run out of breath after walking up a flight of stairs, while four in 10 admitted that they need to pause for a while after running for a bus. Moreover, 16 percent of the participants said that even playing with a kid makes them breathless, while nearly one in 10 find it difficult to pick something up from the floor without gasping for air afterwards.

The researchers also discovered that it takes 38 seconds on average for them to recover from breathlessness, while one in 20 adults needs more than two minutes to breathe normally again.

“It’s worrying that so many people found themselves out of breath performing simple actions,” said Mike McKevitt, director of Patient Services for the British Lung Foundation.

These findings are alarming because running out of breath by just doing everyday tasks could be a sign of lung disease. (Related: 7 Signs Your Lungs are in Danger.)

Although nearly half of the respondents acknowledged that their current level of fitness was affecting their lives, a lot of them provided excuses that prevent them form exercising, such as injuries, tiredness, and busyness at work. Some also enjoy their sedentary life too much that they could not do some exercise to enhance their lung health.


“Even though more than four in 10 people think they’re fit and healthy, you can see from the results this may not be the case,” McKevitt said.

As a result, the British Lung Foundation encourages people to participate in their online breath test to determine whether they need to see a healthcare professional for their breathlessness. The breath test includes 10 questions based around the Medical Research Council breathlessness scale. The goal of the test is to reassure people who do not have a problem and guide those with alarming breathlessness to see their health care provider.

Managing breathlessness

Shortness of breath can be managed through making healthy lifestyle changes. These include:

  • Quitting smoking and avoiding tobacco smoke
  • Avoiding inhaling pollutants, allergens, and environmental toxins
  • Losing weight if you are obese or overweight
  • Avoiding exertion at high elevations
  • Eating healthy
  • Getting enough sleep
  • Following the recommended plan for any underlying condition, such as asthma or bronchitis

You can also try breathing techniques to help manage your breathlessness:

  • Pursed-lip breathing – This technique helps slow down the pace of your breathing, which makes each breath deeper and more effective. In addition, this helps release air that is trapped in the lungs. This can be helpful whenever you feel breathless, especially during bending, lifting objects, or climbing the stairs. To do this, relax your neck and shoulder muscles. Then, slowly breath in through your nose for two counts while your mouth is closed. Next, purse your lips like you're about to whistle. Breathe out slowly and gently through your pursed lips for four counts.
  • Diaphragmatic breathing – This breathing style can be done by sitting on a chair with bent knees and relaxed shoulders, head, and neck first. Then, place your hand on your belly and breathe in slowly through your nose. As you exhale, tighten your muscles and breathe out through your mouth with pursed lips.

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