Three In 10 Brits Struggling To Breathe From Everyday Activities

Three In 10 Brits Struggling To Breathe From Everyday Activities

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A study conducted by the British Lung Foundation finds that a third of all Brits admit to being left gasping for air – after walking up a flight of stairs.

Have you ever felt breathless from walking up the stairs, or worried that you might be a little bit too out of breath after that jog for the morning bus? Well, according to recent research undertaken by the The British Lung Foundation, three in 10 Brits admit to being left gasping for air – after walking up a flight of stairs. The study, which involved 2,000 people, found that more than 25% exercised only once a week. In addition this, a third of those analysed, said they would not be able to run a mile even “if their life depended on it”.

Furthermore, just one quarter of those analysed said they would be comfortable to play a game of football or netball at their current level of fitness. Another 16 percent of the people taking part in the study, admitted that playing with a child is enough to leave them puffed out and nearly one in 10 struggles to pick something up off the floor without needing to catch their breath afterwards.

Mike McKevitt, who is the director of patient services for the British Lung Foundation, stated, “It’s worrying that so many people found themselves out of breath performing simple actions. He also added, “Breathlessness doing everyday tasks could be a symptom of lung disease and is something that shouldn’t be ignored.”

So, it turns out that the morning jaunt of running after that bus might well be something that needs a little further looking into. In fact, four in 10 of those form this recent study have had to take a breather after running for a bus, while one quarter say that sex can leave them feeling out of breath. Rather worryingly, they study noted that more than a fifth of employees have even felt light-headed during the course of a workday, when the pressure and stress became too much. These statistics can seem pretty scary.

It has been calculated that approximately 12.7 million people in the UK, which is approximately every 1 in 5, have a history of asthma, COPD or another long standing respiratory illness. And around half of those diagnosed; roughly 6.5 million people, report taking prescribed medication from their GP for lung disease within the last year.

Statistics reported by the British Lung Foundation paint a pretty scary picture, as it is reported that lung diseases are responsible for more than 700,000 hospital admissions and over 6 million inpatient bed-days in the UK each year. The BLF also highlights that 10,000 people in the UK are newly diagnosed with a lung disease every week, and furthermore, somebody dies from lung disease in the UK every 5 minutes.

The numbers speak for themselves, and with this in mind, Mike McKevitt wants to urge more people to visit their doctors based on this feeling of breathlessness, stating that, “There are many people in the UK who may have a lung disease but do not have a diagnosis – who feel breathless daily – but have not been to the doctors. He added “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.” Being out of breath can be considered such a part of normal, everyday life that many people may not even realise something is wrong. McKevitt further added “If you’re breathless doing everyday tasks that’s not right. Lung health is so important to our overall well being.” 

Further statistics in relation to health and fitness levels, particularly when it comes to obesity highlight the need to make a positive change when it comes to overall wellness and health.  In 2016/17 there were 617 thousand admissions in NHS hospitals where obesity was recorded as the primary or a secondary diagnosis. And according to the British Heart Foundation 2017 Inactivity Report, around 39% of UK adults – that’s around 20 million people – are failing to meet Government recommendations for physical activity.

What can you do to help?

The BLF study commissioned by McKevitt, discovered that 44 per cent of participants find their current fitness level to hold a negative impact over their lives. And amongst the usual excuses used for low fitness levels, many claimed that either an injury or simply being busy at work was stopping them from exercising. It was also found that one in 10 actually enjoy the feeling of being sedentary.

The British Lung Foundation claims that after feeling breathless, it take most people 38 seconds for the gasping to stop. However, one in 20 adults need roughly two minutes to get back to a normal breath. And there are things you can do to improve this.

McKevitt further stresses the point of being able to improve everyday health and fitness, as “No matter your circumstances, it’s possible to make yourself a little bit fitter and your lungs a little bit healthier. The little things we do can also have an impact on improving lung health. As McKevitt also states, “Small changes like walking up the stairs rather than taking the lift or getting off the bus a stop early can make a real difference.”

One way to assess lung health is to take a simple online breath test to see if a GP visit for breathlessness is in order. For anyone who feels they may need fall into this category, they are able to take the British Lung Foundation online breath test here. Participants are asked to answer ten questions based around the Medical Research Council breathlessness scale and the result will help people decide if they need to see a GP. 

The aim of this breath test is mainly as a way to help reassure those who don’t actually have a problem with their lung health, alongside assisting those with significant breathlessness to make an appointment with their GP.

Whilst utilizing tools such as the BLF breath test and maintaining regular check-ups with your GP, a further way to help with lung strengthening is to carry out breathing exercises. As humorous as the names might suggest, exercises such as ‘Pursed lip breathing’ and ‘Belly breathing’, are taught by pulmonary rehabilitation specialists to people who have been diagnosed as having chronic lung diseases, such as asthma and COPD. In the same way that aerobic exercise improves heart function and strengthens muscles, breathing exercises can make your lungs more efficient, contributing to overall lung health. By adopting these particular strategies, it shouldn’t be too long before you can take a breath of fresh air and welcome healthy lungs back into your life.