Here’s How You Can Increase Your Lung Capacity
You may have heard of the term “lung capacity” in relation to singing or sports, and assumed it only applied to athletes and musicians. However, increasing lung capacity is vital for everyone in order to maintain good cell health, especially as we age. This is especially true for patients who suffer from asthma or allergies, and struggle to get a steady supply of oxygen to the body on their own.
As we grow older, our lungs naturally weaken, impairing their ability to supply our cells with the oxygen needed for basic metabolic functions. This results in breathlessness and fatigue, and the inability to endure physical activity for extended periods of time. That’s why athletes are trained to maximize lung capacity in order to increase their physical stamina. While you may not be hitting the court anytime soon, strengthening the lungs now will result in increased energy, liveliness, and overall cell health.
Here’s a deeper look at the importance of lung capacity, and what you can do to increase it.
What is Lung Capacity?
The average estimated lung capacity of a man is approximately 6 liters of air – for a woman, a little over 4 liters. Total lung capacity measures the volume of air contained in the lungs when fully inflated, and is calculated from the sum of vital capacity (VC) and residual volume (RV). People who are taller, acclimated to high altitudes, and physically fit tend to have larger lung volumes than the average population.
Lung volume – and its inferred capacity – is measured through spirometry. Your lung capacity naturally decreases as you age, due to a number of combined factors: a weakened diaphragm, a thinning ribcage, loss of elasticity in lung tissue, misshapen alveoli, and particle buildup in the lungs resulting in lung damage.
A stable supply of oxygen is integral to the metabolic function of all cells. The larger the organism or the greater energy it expends, the higher its lung capacity needs to be in order to support its systems. Cheetahs, for example, have especially large lung capacities to fuel their bodies’ cells when sprinting at high speeds. For the same reasons, all athletes benefit from maximum lung capacity to fuel their performance on the field or court.
Increased lung capacity not only extends your physical stamina, but results in greater health overall. The connection is clear: healthier lungs lead to a more robust supply of oxygen, which fuels healthier cells.
Tips for Increasing Lung Capacity Today
Breathing Exercises: Like every part of the body, your lungs respond to training, too. In fact, 80% of the work when breathing is performed by the diaphragm, your lungs’ strongest muscle. Strengthening the diaphragm results in heightened lung capacity, earning you greater physical stamina. Breathing exercises are a simple and effective way to condition the lungs to take in more air, and the body to process that oxygen more efficiently. One simple exercise is to practice blowing up balloons, which forces your lungs to improve their ability to continuously pump increasing amounts of air. Another method is to focus on training your body to adopt abdominal breathing, versus chest breathing.
Cardio: Cardiovascular exercise demands that your lungs supply oxygen to the body quickly and efficiently for it to perform at high intensity. Running is one of the best cardiovascular exercises to whip your lungs and body into shape. Since running requires extraordinary stamina, strong lungs are essential in feeding your cells the oxygen they need to persevere. Before any running regimen, start with breathing exercises: inhale to your lungs’ fullest capacity, and hold for 20 seconds (or as long as you can manage). Exhale as slowly as possible, and repeat up to 4 times per set. Another fun variation is to inhale to maximum capacity, and hold while walking 15 steps. Conditioning your lungs will result in less burning, heaving, and wheezing when running; and will lead to greater stamina.
Higher Elevation: Higher altitudes are a great challenge to improve your lung capacity, since the atmosphere in higher elevation contains less oxygen. This forces the lungs to improve their ability to draw in and supply oxygen to the body. Try adding mountain hikes or hilly trails to your workout regimen, or take up high altitude sports like skiing or snowboarding.
Swim: Swimming poses a great challenge for building lung capacity, for obvious reasons. Push yourself to wait longer between breaths, or to swim farther with each breath you take.
Music: Playing wind instruments such as saxophone or clarinet conditions the lungs to exert generous amounts of air with powerful force, and for directed amounts of time, continuously. Singing lessons are similarly effective, especially when singing songs which require you to hold a note for an extended length of time.
Schedule a Consultation with Dr. Shukla
Make your lung health a top priority, and schedule a consultation with reputed pulmonologist Dr. Mayank Shukla today. Dr. Shukla has over 15 years of experience treating asthma and allergy patients in New York, with an outstanding record of patient satisfaction. For all of your respiratory needs, contact the caring staff at the Asthma Allergy Sleep Center of New York.