Breathe in. Breathe out. It’s so easy! We humans begin to breathe independently after birth. And we can do it easily, 24/7, without ever having learnt how. We don’t usually give much thought to our breathing. Why would we?

We breathe enough air in and out every day to fill a hot-air balloon or 100 bathtubs. This is vital in order to supply our bodies with enough oxygen. But the lungs’ incredible achievement only really becomes evident when our breathing doesn’t work as it should, for example due to disease.

Healthy lungs are an important guarantor of our well-being and a long life. And we can play a major part in this ourselves. On this website you will learn how the lungs work and how you can make them stronger and protect them from harmful influences.


This takes the air we breathe to the larger right and smaller left lung.

The windpipe divides 22 times in the chest: firstly into the bronchial tubes, and then into the bronchioles, which are less than 1 mm thick.

These hang from the bronchioles in bunches, surrounded by blood vessels. This is where gas exchange occurs.


The most important jobs of the lungs are to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide. This occurs in the tiny alveoli. The oxygen breathed in passes through the alveoli’s extremely thin walls and enters the surrounding blood vessels, while carbon dioxide is transferred back to the lungs to be breathed out.

But the lungs are sensitive. The air we breathe needs to be clean, warm and moist enough, otherwise lasting damage could be caused that could impede gas exchange. The air is therefore moistened and warmed in particular in the nose, but also in the mouth, windpipe and bronchial tubes.

In addition, the mucous membranes in the airways filter foreign bodies out of the air, with germs, dust and dirt particles remaining attached to them. In this way, the airways prevent intruders from making it deep into the lungs. Instead, our immune system is activated and ejects them.

Use and care

Exercise and nurture your lungs regularly. This will enhance their efficiency and boost your defences.

  • Get moving: a brisk walk or relaxed cycling for approximately 30 minutes a day promotes circulation and exercises the respiratory muscles. More oxygen then gets to the muscles, brain and other organs.
  • Enjoy nature: regular trips to the countryside promote the lungs’ self-cleaning function – plants filter the air and can stimulate the immune system. This also reduces stress levels, which boosts mental health.
  • Drink a lot: at least 1.5 litres of fluid a day. This ensures that the upper airways are adequately moistened, enabling the mucous membranes to optimally perform their filtering function. This effect is enhanced by visits to the sauna and regular inhalation.
  • Superfoods for superpowers: vitamins and unsaturated fatty acids strengthen the body and the lungs. These can be found in vegetables, wholemeal products, nuts, fish and vegetable fats such as rapeseed oil and olive oil.

There are some simple tests you can perform yourself to regularly check your lungs’ efficiency, while also exercising the respiratory muscles. All you need is a balloon and a candle.

Volume test


Take a deep breath. As you breathe out, inflate a balloon, completely emptying your lungs in the process. Can you inflate the balloon to the size of a head in one breath?

Strength test


Hold a lit tealight at arm’s length from your face. Blow it out with one puff of breath. If you don’t succeed at first, work your way up to the distance gradually.

Avoid particulate matter and other pollutants

The nose, mouth and airways serve as a natural protective barrier, fending off germs, insects and dirt particles. The smaller these particles are, the more difficult they are to filter out.

Particulate matter is so small that it finds its way to the alveoli, collects there and impairs lung efficiency. In addition, numerous harmful chemicals can enter the body in particulate matter, then making it into the blood via the lungs and being spread around the body.

Major sources of particulate matter include in particular roads, airports and industrial plants. The material residues found in some workshops and also office printers can likewise be a source of contamination. But by far the largest volume of very fine polluting particles makes it to the lungs when you smoke.

Quitting smoking isn’t easy, but your BKK insurer will help you. And it’s worth it: the blood returns to being able to transport the maximum amount of oxygen eight hours after the last drag of a cigarette. After nine months, the lungs have by and large been cleansed. In view of this, the advice for passive smokers too is to avoid that smoke!

Fresh air to breathe is key: allow fresh air into your interior by having your windows wide open for five to ten minutes at least three times a day. This will bring in new oxygen. This also increases humidity, thereby maintaining the protective function of the mucous membranes in your airways.

Give your lungs a break occasionally too: taking small detours when out of the house or away from the workplace can help you avoid regularly walking down busy roads. And you can simultaneously recharge your batteries by heading to places in the countryside in your free time.

Possibilities for early detection

There is not as yet a reliable early detection programme for lung cancer. Diagnosis is further complicated by the fact that health problems often only present themselves at a late stage and cancer cannot always be identified as the cause. In many instances, the illness is therefore only identified in the late stages.

So pay attention to whether you can always breathe unhindered in everyday life. You should consult a doctor in particular if you have any of the following symptoms:

  • A cough that lingers for weeks, substantially changes or involves coughing up blood
  • Sustained hoarseness and difficulty swallowing
  • Fever attacks and a lingering cold
  • Atypical changes in your breathing such as breathing noises, pain, shortness of breath or difficulty breathing
  • Unexplained weight loss, reduced concentration or reduced energy levels

But don’t panic! These symptoms may be signs of a disease, but will not necessarily lead to a cancer diagnosis.

Good to know

  • Breathing and the psyche can both influence one another. You will automatically breathe more quickly in stressful situations. You can actively calm yourself by focusing on taking long, deep breaths.
  • The chest needs to be able to rise and fall unhindered for you to take long, deep breaths. Breathing like this leads to optimum air exchange in the lungs and therefore also to functioning gas exchange. By paying attention to an upright posture, you give the chest the space it needs to breathe.
  • Airing rooms regularly is strongly recommended in particular in regions in Germany with high radon concentrations. This is because if the concentration of this naturally occurring gas gets too high in enclosed spaces this can increase the risk of lung cancer. You can easily find out what regions these are online.