How to Increase Lung Capacity
May 19, 2021 | Farah Jassawalla

How to Increase Lung Capacity

Lung capacity is the total amount of air you can hold in your lungs. It helps your lungs expand upon inhalation and prevents shortness of breath. Normal lung capacity ranges vary with age, gender, ethnicity, and smoking habits.

Health conditions like COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease) and asthma can compromise lung capacity and make it hard for us to breathe.

You can enhance your lung capacity by avoiding active and passive smoking, eating an antioxidant-rich diet, getting vaccinated to prevent respiratory infections, using indoor air filters to remove dust, mold, and smoke, and exercising regularly. Here, we narrow our focus to some breathing exercises that increase your lung capacity.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Diaphragmatic breathing, also known as belly breathing or abdominal breathing, aims to strengthen your diaphragm muscles. The diaphragm lowers when you inhale to make space for the incoming air and rises when you exhale.

Belly breathing is for people who suffer from lung problems, such as asthma, emphysema and chronic bronchitis. However, it works for healthy individuals as well.

Follow the following steps for diaphragmatic breathing:

1.    Lie down on a flat surface. Place a pillow under your head and your knees. It will keep your body in a comfortable position.

2.    Place one hand on the chest, central position.

3.    Place the other hand between the rib cage and the diaphragm.

4.    Slowly breathe in through the nose for two seconds. Let the diaphragm lower itself and your stomach move outward. It will push against your hand while your chest remains still.

5.    Purse your lips and breathe out or exhale for two seconds while pressing down on your abdomen. The chest remains still during exhalation as well.

6.    Repeat the steps.

You can start with this exercise for 5-10 minutes about 3-4 times per day and gradually increase the duration of diaphragmatic breathing. You can also take this one step further and place a book on your abdomen to increase the effort.

Pursed-lips breathing

Pursed-lips breathing is for people who live with a compromised respiratory system, such as in the case of COPD and asthma. They might experience shortness of breath while:

      Climbing down the stairs

      Walking faster than usual

      Performing strenuous exercises

It reduces your breathing rate by keeping your airways open for longer, letting oxygen enter and carbon dioxide leave your lungs. Here’s how you can control shortness of breath by pursed-lips breathing:

1.    Sit in a chair and relax your shoulder and neck muscles.

2.    Breathe in slowly through your nose, and make sure that you keep your mouth closed during this step. You can count to yourself, keeping track of your breathing time.

3.    Purse or pucker your lips like how you would while blowing out a birthday candle or blowing a whistle.

4.    Slowly breathe out or exhale through your pursed lips and let all the air escape your lungs. Your exhalation time should be more than your inhalation time. For example, if you counted to two during inhalation, you should count to four during exhalation.

5.    Repeat the same steps for as long as you need to.

Rib Stretch

Rib stretch, also known as rib cage stretching, is another breathing exercise that increases your lung capacity and requires you to follow the following steps:

1.    Stand up straight and release all the air from your lungs.

2.    Breathe in slowly and take in as much air as possible, expanding your lungs.

3.    Hold the air in your lungs for about 15-20 seconds or what feels comfortable for you.

4.    While holding the air, place both hands on your hips, with your thumb facing forward with the little finger touching the back of your hips.

5.    Breathe out or exhale slowly and relax your muscles.

6.    Repeat the exercise three or more times every day.

For further insight and medical advice, contact Shifa4U with an online appointment today.

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Farah Jassawalla

Farah Jassawalla is a graduate of the Lahore School of Economics. She is also a writer, and healthcare enthusiast, having closely observed case studies while working with Lahore's thriving general physicians at their clinics.