The older we get the more we lose lung capacity. Lung capacity refers to the maximum amount of oxygen your body is able to use at any given time. When lung capacity decreases your risk of heart failure increases.
Unfortunately, the ordinary breathing that we do daily isn’t enough to keep oxygen flowing at peak levels. Just like the rest of your body, your lungs thrive on movement. This means that you need to challenge your lungs with more intense activity.
Here are six ways to achieve this. These proven methods will help improve your lung capacity and make it easier to get all the oxygen your body needs.
1. Cardio training
There’s nothing else that will make your lungs stronger than doing cardio. You can do this by running, swimming or even cycling. Doing cardio teaches your lungs to deliver more oxygen to your bloodstream quicker, as well as becoming more efficient at removing carbon dioxide (CO2) from your body.
What happens to your lungs when you run?
- The endurance capacity of your respiratory muscles – including the diaphragm and intercostal muscles – increases, allowing deeper, fuller and more efficient breaths when you run.
- With regular training you grow more capillaries, which means you can get more oxygen to your muscles quicker.
- The more you run, the more alveoli you grow. These take oxygen and transport it into the capillaries.
There are many ways to go about cardio training. You can do high intensity intervals or you can do zone 2 cardio.
High intensity intervals should be done once or twice per week. This type of cardio session is physically demanding and pushes your lungs and heart rate to the upper limits.
It requires that you go all out for 30 seconds, followed up by 30 seconds rest. Repeat this cycle for up to 15 to 20 minutes. If you’re just starting out, you can increase the resting period to 300 seconds and gradually decrease it as your body starts to adapt.
Zone 2 cardio
The second type of cardio that helps train your lungs is zone 2 cardio. This is a form of cardio where you’re going just above the intensity of being able to have a conversation. Aim to do 150 to 180 minutes a week of this type of cardio.
While exercising is one of the best ways to build stronger lungs, there are other things you can do to keep your lungs functioning properly. Here are some simple breathing techniques you can do almost anytime of the day.
2. Diaphragmatic breathing
Ever wondered how opera singers never seem to run out of breath? This is the technique that they use to increase their lung capacity. Diaphragmatic breathing uses the awareness of the diaphragm muscle, which separates the organs in the abdomen from the lungs.
By concentrating on lowering the diaphragm as you breathe in, you’ll get a much deeper inhale. These techniques work well for anyone who has lung problems related to asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis, as well as healthy individuals.
Step 1 – Inhale through your nose and focus on deeply expanding your belly. Do this for 4 seconds.
Step 2 – Hold for 6 seconds
Step 3 – Breathe out through your nose for 8 seconds.
Do this for 5 to 15 minutes.
3. Fix your posture
Since the lungs are soft structures, they can only take up as much space as you give them. Having good posture can make a big difference.
You’ll want to bring your shoulder blades back, push your tongue against the roof of your mouth and lift your chest upwards. It sounds weird, but the tongue part will automatically put your head in an upright position.
This technique works regardless if you’re sitting or standing. Go ahead and try it, give your lungs the room they need to breathe deeply.
4. Play Music
The same reason why opera singers have terrific lungs can be applied to playing a brass instrument. Not only is this a great way to learn something new or keep your brain engaged, it’s a guaranteed way to build stronger lungs, which results in better air efficiency. Lots of doctors recommend it for people with asthma.
5. ‘Counting’ your breaths
This technique goes hand in hand with meditation and yoga. It can be used to help you find your focus while also increasing your lung capacity.
All you have to do is prolong the length of your inhalations and exhalations. Start by counting how long one of your regular breath takes. If it takes to the count of five to inhale, it should take to the count of five to exhale. Try to keep them to an equal length.
Once you’ve found the count for your average breath, gradually add one more count to each inhale and exhale until you can comfortably extend the length of time it takes to fill and empty your lungs.
6. Nose breathing
This last one isn’t like the other techniques. While it doesn’t directly make your lungs stronger, it does help improve oxygen circulation in your body.
Nitric oxide (NO) is is a vasodilator, which means it helps to widen blood vessels. This can help improve oxygen circulation in your body. During nasal breathing, your nose releases nitric oxide (NO).
So, when you inhale through your nose this NO will follow the airstream to the lower airways and the lungs. Nasally derived NO has been shown to increase arterial oxygen tension and reduce pulmonary vascular resistance.
Breathing through your nose is an efficient way of getting oxygen into your body. It also helps filter out foreign particles and moisturizes the air your breathe in.
You can apply nose breathing to all the previous techniques to further improve lung capacity.