Two Exercises For Improving Lung Capacity
Lung capacity represents how much air your lungs can hold. Its capacity and function vary among individuals and some conditions such as asthma can significantly alter this. On average though, the maximum amount of air our lungs can contain at a time is about 6 liters.
As we age, our capacity to hold air slowly decreases, usually after our mid-20s. This happens as the muscles responsible for breathing weaken and our lungs lose part of their elasticity. This then affects both our lung's capacity and their efficiency to cycle oxygen and carbon dioxide.
Thankfully, these muscles can also be trained by performing simple breathing exercises. Here are two exercises you can perform anytime:
Also called "belly breathing", this exercise targets the diaphragm, the area that performs the bulk of our breathing. This technique is especially helpful for people with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD) and is best used when feeling rested.
COPD Foundation recommends following these steps to practice diaphragmatic breathing:
1. Relax your shoulders and sit back or lie down.
2. Place one hand on your belly and one on your chest.
3. Inhale through your nose for 2 seconds, feeling the air move into your abdomen and feeling your stomach move out. Your stomach should move more than your chest does.
4. Breathe out for 2 seconds through pursed lips while pressing on your abdomen.
Pursed-lips breathing is another exercise that slows down and reduces the effort of breathing by keeping your airways open for longer. This helps the organ function and improves the process of oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange.
For performing the pursed-lips breathing technique, follow these steps:
1. Inhale slowly through your nostrils.
2. Purse your lips, as if pouting or about to blow on something.
3. Breathe out as slowly as possible through pursed lips. This should take at least twice as long as it did to breathe in.
This exercise is also typically easier than diaphragmatic breathing and can be performed at home.
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