While many have not really considered this there are many ways that you can increase the capacity of your lungs to draw in oxygen. You cannot actually increase the size of your lungs themselves but you can do some things that will increase the amount of oxygen you can bring in. This will help to improve the efficiency of your lungs, making you healthier, and it has a host of other benefits, like helping you to hold notes longer when singing, having more efficient breathing for sports, and holding your breath longer under water. That is just the tip of the iceberg.
Before we spend too much time diving into the benefits, it is best to learn the how part of inhaling more air, i.e., improving lung capacity. It is actually a fairly simple process to get started.
Your lungs are like any other organ or muscle in your body. The more you exercise them the healthier and more efficient they will be. Now, all of us breathe in and out all day, so clearly they are working, but what I am talking about is akin to going to the gym to do squats to improve the strength and efficiency of your legs. Your legs work and you can always walk on them, but if you spend time properly exercising them, you can add a lot of tone and strength to them, making you able to do more lifting and exercise.
This is true of your lungs as well. The more you do with your lungs to improve efficiency, the greater your lungs will operate. The more efficient that air flow will be for you and you will feel much better.
So let’s start learning some exercises and techniques that can improve your lung capacity.
This is a technique that was created by two doctors, Paul and Patricia Bragg, as part of their Super-Power Breathing techniques. The exercise is actually quite simple. What you want to do is to stand or sit (preferably stand) in an upright position, and have your feet flat on the floor. Make sure that you do not lock your knees however; they should be loose so as to not cause undue stress or tension on your body.
Now, bend over from the waist as you expel the air from your lungs. Make sure you push all the air out as you do. Once you have done that, return to the upright position very slowly, drawing in air as you do. As you inhale take in as much air as you can and once you are upright, hold the air for about 20 seconds, then repeat. Adjust the time frames if need be. As you are counting to 20, extend both arms fully overhead and as you exhale lower your arms slowly. Complete four cycles of this exercise a few times a day.
The Pursed-Pinched Lip Technique
This is one of the most popular and simplest exercises a person can do to start improving lung capacity. To perform this exercise all you do is inhale as much air in as you can through your nose, which will force your abdominal muscles to push out. You then want to slowly exhale with your lips pursed so that you allow out as small amount of oxygen as possible at one time. Your lips should be opened a very small amount. As you exhale it should take about twice as long as it took to inhale and you should hear a small kind of hissing sound from the air being pushed out through the small opening in your lips.
This exercise puts a great deal of pressure on your chest and increases the elasticity of your abdominal muscles. This will make more room for your lungs to expand.
You don’t need to do all kinds of fancy techniques to expand your lung capacity. You can increase the capacity by simply doing a deep breathing exercise. All you need to do is take in air slowly, then hold it for 20 seconds. Then slowly let it out, and hold for 20 seconds before inhaling again. Do this over and over about 15-20 times, three times a day and you will see some immediate results within weeks.
You can do a lot to increase your lung capacity by using a prop that requires you to blow into it. One of the best is a simple balloon. What you want to do is find an average size balloon, not a small water balloon style, and practice reducing the amount of breaths you need to fill the balloon. Now, I understand that “filled” is a subjective term, so you have to be honest with yourself in the standard that you set.
Practice four or five times to blow up a balloon in a single breath. As you are able to do this practice on balloons that require more air, like the ones that would be used for balloon animals. These can be blown up to some rather incredible lengths, so if you can get really good you can definitely add some serious capacity to your lungs.
Want to improve your lung capacity? Learn to play a wind or brass instrument like a trombone or oboe. You simply cannot play any of these instruments well if you cannot improve your lung capacity. The instrument, by its very nature, will help you to improve the capacity.
You will see that the longer you play the more your lungs will expand to help you play notes longer. Much like a singer can hit notes for longer periods of time by having an increased lung capacity, the same is true for a musician. If you don’t play a musical instrument and have always wanted to learn, and you want to improve your lung capacity, then it’s a no-brainer.
We have looked at one exercise to improve the capacity of the abdomen to allow more air in by increasing the elasticity of the diaphragm. Here is another exercise you can use that will help you to expand your abdominal breathing.
What you want to do is to lay your back in a comfortable position. Put one hand directly on your abdomen and the other on your chest. Breathe in very deeply and slowly from your mid-section. What you are attempting to do is to raise the hand on your belly higher than the one on your chest. You are successfully accomplishing this when you are able to accomplish this task.
Some will put a mirror to the side of them so they can actually watch to see if the one hand raises above that of the other. This may take some time to gain success, but if you stick with it you will begin to see results and this will help to make you feel better.
For Athletes and Runners
For those of you who are looking to improve your lung capacity to make it easier for you to run or exercise, there are a list of exercises you can do that will help you to accomplish this. While these are good for anyone to do, they are especially beneficial for those wishing to improve their performance on the court, field or road.
The reality is that there is no better way to increase the capacity of your lungs than to do exercises that require an increased lung capacity to be able to perform the activity. Running, aerobics, and playing sports all do these things. They help to build up the lung capacity because you are exerting yourself in such a way that increases the amount of oxygen that is needed and your body will adjust to allow this to happen.
There is an important note related to this however. One mistake that many make is that they reach a plateau quickly because the exercise they are performing they learn to maintain a constant rate. For example a person may cycle at about the same speed all the time. As you improve your stamina you will find that your body will adjust as well, and soon your lung capacity will begin to decrease because there is not a need to reach the same level anymore. Your improved physical stamina will actually decrease your lung capacity.
To counteract this, you want to make sure you do a routine a few times a week that alters your normal routine and gets you out of your comfort zone. This can be accomplished by doing a hill workout, adding in intervals, and altering your course frequently to include differing terrain and slopes.
It is for this reason that aerobics are so good for you. They force you to add huge amounts of oxygen into your body at infrequent times, increasing lung capacity.
Train at Higher Altitudes
It doesn’t matter who you ask, if you are looking for a way to increase your lung capacity, there is no better option than to train at a higher altitude. The reason for doing so is simple. At higher altitudes the amount of oxygen in the air is decreased. This makes you winded much easier, gasping for air.
To counteract this you would need to take in a larger amount of air to be able to obtain the amount your body is used to getting. This can be accomplished in one of two ways: you can breathe faster or you can breathe more fully. If you practice on breathing in more fully you will see an instant improvement on your lung capacity.
If you are a swimmer or at least if you can swim, this will really help you to improve your lung capacity. To help improve there are two things you need to work on: your endurance and your capacity. Let me explain those.
The first thing to practice is how long you can go without having to turn your head to breathe. The more you practice the better you will get at this, especially when you first begin each day. You will probably find that you can go 10-12 strokes without having to take in air, and soon may be able to reach as high as 20-25 times.
That brings in the next part: endurance. When you first get into the pool you will probably find that you can go 10-12 strokes without taking your first breath, and that is great. But what happens when you have swam for 10-15 minutes? Do you need to breathe after every other stroke? If so, then the next big step to improve your lung capacity it is to improve your endurance. You want to be hitting a point where you can go at least 6-8 strokes without turning your head to breathe, even if you have been swimming for 15 minutes.
You can also improve that endurance by varying the kinds of strokes you are doing. Don’t always do the freestyle daily, but add to the challenge by practicing the butterfly. That is a very demanding exercise and will help to improve your endurance as well.
This is not all the things you can do to improve your lung capacity, but it is quite a comprehensive list that will give you a lot of things to do to help you to improve your lung capacity. Begin with some of the breathing exercises and practice them daily and you will see some real results right away.
The key to this is determination and repetition. Don’t think because for two days you practiced some deep breathing exercises that you are going to increase your lung capacity drastically. This takes time, like any exercise, however, if you work at it you will see some significant results and will see improvement in your performance in whatever activity you want to do. You will also feel a lot healthier and happier.