Publish 8 April 2021
Take a deep breath while overlooking the evergreens in a local park. Now exhale. Ahh! How does that compare with lungs full of exhaust on a work commute? We cherish fresh air. As an autonomic function, some might take over 600 million lifetime breaths for granted, until they diminish.
An elderly patient was in tears after receiving his hospital bill for two weeks on a ventilator during the COVID-19 pandemic. The amount of money wasn’t a complaint. By comparison, he was grateful for many years of breaths without cost.
Whether you are recovering from surgery or aspire to be a better athlete, increasing lung capacity is beneficial. You will cherish quiet moments in the park or more stamina while participating in your favorite sport.
Importance of Lung Capacity
Total lung capacity (TLC) is the maximum volume of air that enters when you inhale. Pulmonologists measure this with a spirometer. A healthy man’s TLC is about 6.3 quarts (6 liters) of air. This is more that twice that of the average woman. But even at maximum exercise intensity, you use 70% of lung capacity. Factors like age, gender, environment, and body composition affect TLC. [1,2]
Lung capacity is a general predictor your health and life expectancy. As you age, lung efficiency decreases. [1–3] Preventive measures can preserve respiratory function longer.
Increase Your Lung Capacity 3 Ways
You may recognize the advantages of brisk walking. There is only one benefit of sauntering while chatting on a mobile phone. It gives you opportunity to show off your fitness outfit.
For better respiratory and cardiovascular performance, move at a pace that makes conversation difficult. Without a serious health condition, you should be panting during physical fitness.
As your lung capacity increases, advance intensity to a new level of aerobic activity. This can include jogging, dancing, running, or swimming. Modern pulmonology research reveals simple ways to improve lung capacity.
1. Breathing Exercises
With either asthma, Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD), or pulmonary fibrosis, lung capacity diminishes. An individual with severe COPD has 30–49% of available lung function. Even with these respiratory conditions, breathing exercises can help reduce shortness of breath.
Barring chronic medical conditions, breath-control exercises can increase lung capacity. This protects you from some respiratory illnesses.
Pursed Lip Breathing
Many doctors recommend practicing this exercise early in the morning when air is fresh. To relax the muscles in your body, sit in a comfortable position. Close your mouth. Through your nostrils, breathe in as much air as you can. Then exhale slowly through your pursed lips. 
Diaphragmic (Belly) Breathing
Here is an exercise you can do while laying on the bed. Relax your neck and shoulders. Take a deep breath through your nose as you push out your belly with your diaphragm. Then breathe out through the mouth as slowly as possible.
Start off with each exercise three times. Build up to three sets of three or about 10 minutes daily. [3,4] This will relax your ventilation and improve your breathing pattern.
2. Clean Environment
Can we talk about your home and workplace for a moment? Living environment impacts your respiratory system, skin, and overall health. You breathe in all the dust and dander you see on surfaces around you.
For clean air, sanitize your surroundings and remove clutter. Regular dusting of all household surfaces and appliances is essential.
Open your windows when air quality is good. Keep doors and windows closed when outdoor air quality is poor. Choose either natural indoor air purifiers or air purifiers with HEPA filters.  Plant as much foliage as possible to promote a healthy lifestyle.
3. Consume Enough Vitamin D
Vitamin D helps reduce inflammation, which is a key issue in COPD.  Sunshine is a rich source of vitamin D. In the summer, you can benefit from outdoor fitness. During the winter season, take vitamin D supplements. Foods rich in vitamin D include red meat, fish, and egg yolk.
Environmental pollution and global warming expose your lungs to poisonous gases like sulphur dioxide (SO2), nitrogen dioxide (NO2), and ammonia (NH3). These gases are very harmful to your lungs and can cause diseases. So take measures that can increase your lung capacity.
Early care of your respiratory system helps you live a long healthy life. Avoid bad habits like smoking. This can pollute and weaken lung function. Non-smokers have better outcomes when warding off respiratory diseases. 
Poor lung capacity is no walk in the park. With better lung capacity, you can swim further, run faster, or walk longer. Take deep breaths now to increase your duration of breathing fresh air long into the future.
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Co-author Zarsha Noureen is a writer specializing in beauty, health, and wellness.
- Delgado BJ, Bajaj T. Physiology, Lung Capacity. [Updated 2020 Aug 11]. In: StatPearls [Internet]. Treasure Island (FL): StatPearls Publishing; 2020 Jan.
- Lung capacity: What does it means? Lung Institute. (May 3, 2017)
- Breathing life into your lungs. Health Harvard. (April 2018)
- Breathing Exercises. Lung.org. (May 27, 2020)
- What exercises can help increase lung capacity. MedicalNewsToday. (Dec 8, 2020)
- Breathing Exercises to increase lung capacity. Healthline. (Dec 3, 2018)
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