9 Exercises to Increase Your Lung Capacity

Do you ever feel like you get short of breath in situations when other people may not?

If so, there are several factors that could contribute to this, including the negative effects of smoking, asthma, and COPD.

Or maybe you are a runner, swimmer, yoga enthusiast or singer, and have what would be considered “normal” lung capacity. But you want to increase your lung capacity so you can improve in your craft.

If either of these is true, one thing you can do is learn how to increase your lung capacity (which refers to the amount of air that your lungs can hold at a time).

Your lungs mature in your mid-20s, and as you age, your lung capacity slowly decreases. In this article, I will address ways that you can increase your lung capacity. I include four specific daily lung exercises that you can do even if your schedule is already packed full.

What Is Lung Capacity?

Your total lung capacity refers to the total amount of air that you can hold in your lungs at one time. There are different volumes of air that are normal for different stages of the respiratory cycle, so a normal lung capacity is constantly changing.

On average, men have a greater total lung capacity than women do. But most people don’t use their entire lung capacity. While at rest, a man’s lungs are able to hold about 1.5 pints of air. A women’s lungs at rest can hold about 0.8 pints.

Because people don’t typically use their entire lung capacity, this suggests that the lungs are over-qualified to accomplish their everyday job.

In fact, people who do not suffer from a chronic lung disease only use about 70% of their total lung capacity when they are doing intense exercise.

Tidal breathing refers to inhaling and exhaling during normal and restful breathing. The range of one tidal breath is determined by the depth of a resting breath, and by the end point of exhalation.

On average, a newborn’s breathing rate is 30-60 breaths each minute. An adult’s breathing rate tends to be between 12 and 20 breaths per minute.

Why Would You Want to Increase Your Lung Capacity?

There are several reasons why someone may want to increase their lung capacity. Here are a few reasons you might find it useful to build this as a daily habit:

  • Improves stamina to help you perform better in whatever sports you engage in, especially swimming and running.

This is especially true if you are involved in competitions, but some people just want to create and achieve personal athletic goals.

Either way, athletes are often looking for ways to improve their performance. Increasing lung capacity can certainly help them do that.

  • Overcome negative health impacts of smoking, asthma, or chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD).

People suffering from pulmonary diseases are limited in what they can do because of their decreased lung capacity.

Overcoming this obstacle could help people live life a bit more freely and not be restricted in their activities.

  • It helps you with certain skills, like singing or playing an instrument.

Singers and people who play wind instruments often want to achieve desensitization of breathlessness by developing better breathing coordination. This helps them get over anxiety about running out of breath while they are performing.

  • Prevents various breathing disorders.

There are many forms of COPD that can be prevented by having a higher lung capacity. One common disorder is bronchitis. It can be better controlled by those who have a high lung capacity because they are able to perform a more productive cough.

  • Ensure every part of your body gets adequate oxygen.

The lungs bring oxygen into the body, which provides energy and gets rid of carbon dioxide. When your lungs are healthy and you have a high lung capacity, you keep a larger breathing reserve. This helps your body distribute oxygen appropriately.

  • Helps you get restful sleep.

Studies have shown that changes in lung capacity influence one’s upper airway size and resistance. This has an effect on whether or not someone experiences sleep apnea.

Continuous positive airway pressure requirements actually decrease when the lung capacity increases.

  • Meditation.

Breathing is a big part of meditation because you are focusing your attention on your breath. If you can take deeper breaths, this will allow your meditation sessions to become less interrupted.

  • Larger lung capacity leads to a longer life.

Your lung health may actually be the number one predictor of your lifespan. A reduced amount of oxygen reserves in your lungs can increase your risk of suffering a heart attack and stroke.

Breathing Exercises That Increase Lung Capacity

1. Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, which is also known as abdominal breathing, involves contracting the diaphragm muscle in order to make it stronger.

To do this type of breathing, begin by lying down on your back and placing one hand on your stomach and one on your chest. If it makes you more comfortable, you can put a pillow or another type of support under your knees.

While in this position, breathe in deeply through your nose. Hold your breath for a few seconds before exhaling out of your mouth. As you are exhaling, squeeze your stomach muscles to help get rid of any excess air that is left in your lungs.

Repeat this exercise 10 times before sitting up. Once you are sitting up, let your shoulders relax, and straighten your spine while you do some abdominal breathing.

2. Pursed-lip Breathing

This type of breathing is also known as numbered breathing, and is typically recommended for people who have COPD. Pursed-lip breathing is one of the easiest ways to control shortness of breath.

Doing this exercise provides a quick way to slow down the pace of your breath. Making each breath more effective.

To do this, relax your neck and shoulder muscles, and close your mouth. Inhale slowly through your nose for two counts. Then exhale slowly through your mouth with your lips pursed while you count to four. This will help improve ventilation, release any air that is trapped in your lungs, keep your airways open, and slow your breathing rate.

lung function | cardiovascular health | endurance training
Doing this exercise provides a quick way to slow down the pace of your breath.

You can add some variation to this exercise by putting your hands together and lifting your arms in front of your chest. When you breathe out through your mouth, twist your body to one side and then the other for as long as you are exhaling. Remember to make sure that your exhale lasts twice as long as your inhale.

You can also try flexing your elbows and putting your fingers on your shoulders while you inhale. Then, when you are exhaling, do a set of arm circles.

Finish this exercise with abdominal breathing for one minute, and complete it with forceful breathing.

3. Rib-stretch Exercise

The rib-stretch exercise is also referred to as a rib cage stretching exercise. Basically, this is an exercise that improves rib cage flexibility so that your internal intercostal muscles can expand better.

This muscle group includes several groups of muscles between the ribs that facilitate the chest’s movement. These muscles help promote one’s involuntary movement of breath.

To do this exercise, stand up straight and exhale all of the air from your lungs. Inhale slowly and fill your lungs with as much air as possible. Hold the air in for about 15 seconds before slowly letting it out. Repeat this three times each day to help increase your lung capacity.

To add to this, put your hands on your hips and bend toward one side and then the other. Lift your hands over your head, and put your left hand on the left side of your waist and lean to the left. This will help you stretch out your right side. Repeat this on the other side. Do this a few times before finishing up with some rib-stretch breaths.

4. Alternative Nostril Breathing

This exercise is also known as lung strengthening pranayama, anuloma viloma, or nadhi sodhana. This type of breathing is relaxed and is used to help relieve nervous system tension and help induce sleep.

This type of breathing may also help detoxify the blood, relax the mind, reduce stress, and increase concentration. This is a great breathing practice because it can be done both seated and while lying down.

respiratory system | high-altitude training | aerobic fitness
This type of breathing is relaxed and is used to help relieve nervous system tension and help induce sleep.

To do this, start by releasing all of the air out of your lungs. Use a finger to block one nostril, and inhale through the other. Inhale into your stomach until you are full of breath. Then, seal your open nostril with another finger and hold the air in your lungs for a moment.

Release the finger that is on one nostril, and exhale all of the breath out that you can. Then take a pause and inhale again through the same nostril. Seal both nostrils again.

If this is the first time you are trying this exercise, breathe in for four counts, hold your breath for up to eight counts, then exhale for four counts. Do this up to 10 times, and pay attention to how your body begins to relax.

This is a type of yoga exercise that can help increase your lung capacity. It may be difficult to do it correctly at first, but practice will definitely make you better.

Additional Exercises to Help Increase Your Lung Capacity

Once you get the first four exercises down, you can add in some variety with some additional general exercises that will also help your lung capacity.

5. Standing Toe-touch Stretch

The standing toe touch stretch is a powerful breathing exercise that increases your lung capacity and helps you absorb more oxygen.

Take a look at the video above to see how to do this exercise, and practice it four times each day.

6. Aerobics

Aerobic exercises can greatly help increase lung capacity by helping large groups of muscles move at a rhythmic speed. Aerobics focuses on your heart, lungs, and the endurance of your body.

This will help your body use oxygen more efficiently, while also enhancing your breathing. You can get some aerobic exercise in by taking long, fast walks or using a stationary bike.

7. Water-based Exercises

Exercising in the water makes your body work harder because it adds resistance, which helps to strengthen your lungs. You can do a lot of different exercises in the water, from simply stretching to lifting weights.

It may take a while to get used to exercising in the water, and it is important that the water comes all the way up to your neck so you can get the full benefits. Be sure to take quick breaths to get the most out of this exercise.

8. Cardio Workouts

Your lung capacity increases a lot with cardio exercises if you do 30 minutes of exercise each day. This is because, when you get tired from doing a fast workout, your lungs have to work harder, which enhances their capacity.

There are a lot of options for cardiovascular exercises, including running, biking, and swimming. Just be sure to warm up and cool down before and after you exercise.

9. Exercising at Highly Elevated Places

There is less oxygen available at high altitudes, which makes your lung capacity increase if you exercise. It is important to start slowly because it is difficult to exercise at higher elevations. Allow your body at least two weeks to get used to the altitude.

Tools to Measure Your Breath

If you want to start working on increasing your lung capacity every day, it may be necessary to purchase a few items to help you during the process. Doing this can help you keep track of your progress.

These four items can help you in the process of increasing your lung capacity by allowing you to track how you are doing and which exercises are making the most difference for you.

1. Pulse Oximeter

Check Price on Amazon!

This is a small and lightweight device that monitors the amount of oxygen in your blood by attaching it to your finger.

It can show you when you are at your ideal oxygen level (about 95%), or when you fall below a normal amount (about 92%).

This tool also measures your pulse rate and pulse strength to give you a good idea of what is going on inside your body while you are exercising.

2. Urine pH Strips

Check Price on Amazon!

PH test strips will give you a fast and accurate read on your body’s pH levels.

This will help you manage your pH levels so they are balanced for your body to optimally process vital minerals and nutrients.

These urine strips give you a convenient method to monitor your pH levels at home. Your first urine of the day is typically more acidic than others, so it is best to test your first and second urine of the day. Optimal levels for urine pH are between 6.8 to 7.2.

3. Spirometer

Check Price on Amazon!

A spirometer measures the volume of air you inhale, and shows you how well you are filling your lungs every time you inhale.

When you use this tool regularly, it can increase the amount of air that you are able to inhale.

When you use this tool, try to inhale and exhale the most amount of air that you possibly can. This tool is typically used to measure the lung performance of people suffering from COPD.

4. PowerLung Trainer

Check Price on Amazon!

This tool can increase your lung capacity and improve the amount of oxygen you are able to take in. This is especially great for those who play sports because it can help increase endurance and reduce recovery time.

Using this lung strengthening tool for only five minutes twice a day can help improve one’s athletic performance and minimize periods of feeling out of breath. This is a great tool for people who are 13 years old and up.

There are muscles that support your lung capacity, and, similar to the other muscles in your body, you have to work them out with resistance to make them stronger and more effective.

With the PowerLung Trainer, lifting and lowering the weight with your breath will help your lungs become stronger, making it easier to exercise and increase your threshold while building strength.

Final Thoughts on How to Increase Lung Capacity

Increasing your lung capacity is beneficial to your health in many ways. It can reduce the side effects of several medical issues, and help improve your performance in aerobic sports such as swimming and running.

If you want to try to increase your lung capacity, I recommend trying one or two of these exercises each day and eventually finding a few that you would be able to fit into your daily routine.

You can also try the Rockport Walking Test if you want to evaluate your lung capacity in relation to your exercise tolerance.

In fact, as you are looking at your daily routine, consider doing a daily habit stack either in the morning or at night to help improve your overall health and well-being.

Good luck!

lung function | cardiovascular health | endurance training