5 ways to keep your lungs healthy


Does the poor air quality from the recent bushfires have you understandably concerned for your health? We asked Dr Kieran Kennedy for his top tips to avoid the smoke.

1. Avoid exercising outdoors
‘Burning vegetation and materials release particles and toxins into the air, and in smoky conditions these directly impact air quality. This then impacts your lungs and heart, particularly when exercising,’ warns Dr Kennedy.

Air quality tends to be better in the early morning or evening, so if you are going to hit the trails, time it well. If in doubt and wherever possible, train indoors. 

2. Change up your training
While there are many benefits to high intensity training, when air quality is low, you  require increased oxygen and you breathe more deeply – which is not good news when there is smoke in the air, explains Dr Kennedy. 

‘Those with allergies or heart or lung conditions might notice this in particular. When training at a high intensity you rely heavily on the use of your lungs and heart,’ he says.

Try swapping your outdoor run for lower intensity exercise such as walking, yoga and weight training indoors until the air clears.

3. Purifiers can improve indoor air quality
Air purifiers can kill viruses and bacteria in the air and improve the air quality in your home. However, their effectiveness can vary – Dr Kennedy suggests opting for a purifier with a high-efficiency particulate air (HEPA) filter. This type of filter forces air through a fine mesh that traps particles from tobacco smoke. One purifier will likely be more effective in a single room, so find a good deal and buy in bulk for your entire home. 

Keep doors and windows closed to prevent the smoky air from entering your home and office. 

4. Use the correct mask
You might have noticed an increase in the number of people wearing masks, particularly on public transport in big city CBDs. While you might think this prevents you from breathing in the smoky air particles, Dr Kennedy warns that cloth and paper face masks haven’t been proven to block out toxic microparticles in the air and they don’t offer any lung protection.  

‘However, research has found that professional grade ‘P2’ masks can effectively filter out major smoke-related toxins to a meaningful level, but the correct fit is vital (which can be tricky) so seek advice,’ he says.

5. Be mindful of pre-existing health conditions and seek advice if you feel unwell
If you have respiratory conditions such as chronic lung disease, heart disease, asthma or allergies, review your medical treatment plan and chat with your GP if you need advice, particularly if you notice symptom changes. This includes wheezing, shortness of breath, tightness in the chest, pain, tiredness, fatigue and dizziness, says Dr Kennedy.

Bottom line: keep inhalers and medication on-hand and stay in tune with your body. 

For live updates on air quality in your area, follow the links below: