You must have heard of the term ‘lung capacity’, especially if you are a sportsperson. It is a very common terminology in sports and cardio workouts, and an important aspect to consider if you are a marathon runner, sprinter, swimmer or a dancer. So what is lung capacity and how to increase lung capacity? It is simply the ability of the lungs to hold air. It is the amount of air that your lungs can hold; lung capacity is measured by your breathing speed (how fast you inhale and exhale), and also the quality of the oxygenation process of your lungs.
However, lung capacity can diminish due to various factors. Some causes for the weakening of lungs are age and physical conditions like chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and pulmonary fibrosis (scarring and damage to lung tissue). This leads to a variety of breathing problems. Although this sounds grave, lung capacity can be increased or improved with physical exercise. This article explains how to increase lung capacity using different techniques.
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How to Increase Lung Capacity with these Breathing Techniques
Want to learn easy ways to increase the lung capacity? Then read further and find out about top breathing techniques.
1. Diaphragmatic Breathing
Also known as abdominal breathing, deep breathing, or more commonly, belly breathing, this technique gets the diaphragm muscles working. The diaphragm muscles are typically engaged during heavy lifting or physically-demanding exercises.
Here are the steps:
1. Lie down or sit with your back rested; relax your shoulders.
2. Then inhale through your nose. Breathe in deeply for about 2 seconds. You should feel the air move into your abdomen.
3. Your stomach must move out more than your chest when you inhale. Keep one hand on your stomach and one on your chest to be sure.
4. Then purse your lips and exhale for 2 seconds. Repeat.
5. If you start feeling uncomfortable, then stop otherwise you will get light-headed.
The Diaphragmatic breathing technique is widely used for addressing COPD by therapists and doctors.
2. Oriental Breathing
This breathing exercise entails numerous continuous inhalations before exhaling.
1. Start with regular breathing.
2. Then inhale in 3 steps through your nose without exhaling. First, just inhale. The second time, bring your hands to your shoulder level. Keep them in front of you. The third time, open your hands and raise them up.
3. After three inhalations, exhale and bring your hands back down.
3. Pursed Lips Breathing
Pursed lips mean lips that are tightly pressed together. In this breathing technique, your airways remain open for a longer time, reducing the breathing effort.
Here are the steps to pursed lips breathing:
1. Inhale through your nostrils.
2. Purse your lips and exhale slowly. You can exhale slower than you inhale.
This technique improves lung function concerning oxygenation.
4. Numbered Breathing
This breathing technique is made of patterns and counts that gradually increase in speed.
Here are the steps:
1. Close your eyes and take a deep breath.
2. Exhale completely until all the air is out of your lungs.
3. Inhale again. Visualize the number ‘1’. Exhale after 2 seconds.
4. Visualize number ‘2’ when inhaling. Exhale after 3 seconds.
5. Continue this till you reach ‘8’.
This is a gradual technique that becomes easier because of the counts.
Other Workouts to Increase Lung Capacity
Running workout is the best way to not only lose weight but even increase your lung capacity. The techniques that tell you how to increase lung capacity are numerous. Here are some well-known, lung-capacity-enhancing workouts.
1. Water-based Exercises
Water workouts put more strain on the lungs because water acts as a hurdle, offering resistance. Weight lifting, swimming, stretching, and cardio workouts that are done in water, help in strengthening the lungs. Ensure that the water is neck-level deep so that your entire body is engaged in the exercise.
2. Cardio Exercises
A 30-minute-a-day cardio session is known to do wonders for your lung capacity. High-intensity cardio workouts especially running is quite effective.
These exercises engage the lungs constantly. When a person gets tired, the lungs work harder to supply oxygen. This gradually improves their capacity.
3. High-elevation Exercises
Higher altitudes have lower atmospheric oxygen. Low-intensity workouts at higher altitudes put some stress on the lungs, pushing them to work harder. Avoid rigorous workouts at high elevations without acclimatization because this can lead to oxygen shortness, altitude sickness, and other health problems.
Consult an expert, and take it slow!
4. Rib Stretch
This is a non-rigorous workout. Here’s how to do a proper rib stretch:
1. Stand straight and exhale all the air from your lungs.
2. Inhale slowly and hold as much air as you can. Stretch your ribs as you inhale. You can even raise your hands if you wish.
3. Hold your breath for 10 to 15 seconds before exhaling.
4. Repeat this exercise 3 times a day.
5. Muscle-tightening Exercises
Workouts like Pilates, upper body, and core-strengthening are great for tightening muscles that participate in breathing. This, in turn, strengthens the lungs and enhances their functioning. These workouts should be done consistently for effectiveness.
6. Pushing Out
Stand upright. Exhale completely and bend down. Straighten up as you inhale. Now inhale deeply and hold your breath. Then raise your hands up and bend down as you exhale. Push out the air from your lungs each time you exhale, and hold your breath for as long as you can when you inhale.
And now, here are some more tips and techniques on how to increase lung capacity without exercising.
- Splash water on your face. This slows down your heart rate as your body believes it is preparing for a dive. It regularizes the flow of oxygen throughout your bloodstream to ‘keep you alive’. This gets your lungs functioning effectively.
- Blow balloons. Filling a balloon with air makes your lungs work overtime. They act like an air pump; but don’t overdo it or you can faint!
- You can learn to play a wind instrument like the tuba, flute, or saxophone. Wind instruments teach you how to utilize your breath for playing longer pieces, gradually increasing your lung capacity.
Precautionary Tips for Healthier Lungs
The following are some precautionary tips on how to increase lung capacity. These are things that you should take care of as a lifestyle choice for healthier lungs.
1. A Clean Home
Mold and pollen is known to have an adverse effect on the lungs. It can lead to breathing problems that may culminate into something worse. Keeping your home clean includes getting rid of dust, dampness, and other harmful particles that can harm your lungs over with prolonged exposure. Vacuuming, sweeping, dusting, are some ways to do so.
2. Kick the Butt
Smoking is a surefire way to ruin your lungs. You need not further explanation as to what inhaling nicotine-filled smoke on a regular basis can do to your lungs. Although it is tough, kicking the butt is the only way to salvage what is left of the health of your lungs and maybe improve their functioning again. Stop smoking; get some exercise and some fresh air to help your lungs get back to their original health.
3. Vitamin Essentials
There is a theory, and some results, that state the advantageous effects of Vitamin D in COPD patients. The understanding is that Vitamin D reduces the inflammation in the lungs, boosting the exercise tolerance of the patients and increasing the strength of their respiratory muscles. An inclusion of Vitamin D in the daily medical dosage of patients showed these results with consistent use.
4. Increase Exercise Tolerance
Consistent exercise leads to an increase in lung capacity. Improving exercise tolerance increases the strength of the muscles that participate in breathing, as well as the capacity of the lungs to provide sufficient oxygen to the body during a workout.
Any form of physical activity a few times a week is recommended by almost all experts. You can also consult with your doctor about an exercise regimen if you have any physical conditions that need specific workouts.
A Word of Caution
Breathing exercises are harmless for healthy people. Those suffering from heart or lung conditions must exercise caution. Over exerting or doing the wrong kind of workout can have adverse effects on your health. The same goes for other health issues. For instance, someone with a joint problem won’t be allowed to cycle or jog. Similarly, someone with a heart condition won’t be recommended a heavy cardio workout.
It is always a good idea to consult your doctor or therapist, at least to start off. Preferably try not to venture out into something new without some research and information. For example, as we mentioned above, working out at high elevations must be undertaken gradually. Altitude sickness is real, and it has its own set of side effects.
Now that you know how to increase your lung capacity, you should get right to it, especially if you are planning to run a marathon. A healthy lifestyle is never a bad thing, as it only brings about positive changes in your body. Just remember to exercise discretion, and move forward with a positive mindset.