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How to Increase Your Lung Capacity for Sports

How to Increase Your Lung Capacity for Sports

Lung capacity is the volume of air the lungs can hold. The maximum lung capacity for healthy adults is about 6 liters. This usually decreases as a person ages. But many athletes, such as swimmers and runners, exhibit greater lung capacities, which in turn help them stay at the top of their game. Here are some tips and easy exercises to increase your lung capacity for sports.

What factors affect lung capacity?

Age. Usually, a person’s lung capacity starts decreasing after the age of 30. As you grow older, the physical changes in the organs of your respiratory system affect the volume of air your lung can retain.

Sex. Males develop larger lungs than females, thus increasing their lung capacity.

Height. Taller individuals have a higher lung capacity since they have larger chests. However, they are also more likely to experience a significant decrease in lung volume as they age.

Location. When a person stays long enough in a high-altitude area, their body starts to adapt to the air pressure by increasing lung capacity.

Lifestyle. Obesity and smoking can greatly decrease a person’s lung capacity, resulting in less oxygen reaching the bloodstream. Similarly, obesity causes fat to put pressure on the thoracic cage.

6 Ways Aerobic Exercises Can Help Improve Your Health

How do I increase my lung capacity for sports?

Here are some tips on how to increase lung capacity for sports and other activities:

Eat healthily

Consuming foods that are rich in antioxidants, such as berries, nuts, spinach, and tea. These help eliminate free radicals in the lungs. Free radicals can damage healthy lung cells. Additionally, the findings of a 2017 study show that eating food that is rich in antioxidants slows down the decrease in lung function, especially for adults who have quit smoking.

Improve indoor air quality

Indoor air pollutants like dust and fumes can irritate the lungs, causing a decrease in lung function and capacity. Cleaning your house regularly and getting rid of dust-collecting items can help improve indoor air quality. You can also place air purifiers with HEPA filters or air purifying plants all over your house.

If you’re living in a city where the outside air quality is poor, it is best to keep your windows closed to prevent outside air from coming inside.

how to increase lung capacity for sports

Exercise regularly

What most people don’t realize is that the more you exercise, the more your body adapts to it. That means you get to improve its exercise tolerance and overall performance.

There are a couple of exercises that can help improve lung capacity. Upper-body exercises like push-ups help strengthen the chest muscles, thus increasing lung capacity. Meanwhile, breathing exercises help strengthen breathing muscles and the different organs in the respiratory system.

There are a variety of breathing exercises than most people can do, including:

Diaphragmatic breathing. Also known as belly breathing, diaphragmatic breathing is great for people with Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease. Do this exercise for about 5 to 10 minutes multiple times a day. Here’s how to do it:

    • Sit or lie down and relax your shoulders.
    • Position one hand on your chest and the other on your belly.
    • Slowly inhale through the nose while making sure that you breathe in towards your abdomen. Your stomach should move more than your chest.
    • Exhale through pursed lips slowly while gently pressing on your abdomen.

Pursed lip breathing is a great lung capacity exercise, especially for people who often experience shortness of breath. Do this exercise 4 to 5 times a day. Here’s how to do it:

      • Relax your shoulders and your neck muscles.
      • Breathe in slowly (two counts) through your nose while keeping your mouth closed.
      • Purse your lips as if you’re about to whistle and breathe out slowly (four counts).

Get vaccinated

Updating your vaccines for the flu and other respiratory diseases is a great way to maintain overall lung health. Consult your doctor for the vaccines that are suitable for your age and needs.

Key takeaways

Decreasing lung capacity is a natural part of aging. However, there are different ways to increase your lung capacity for sports and other activities, as well as several steps to maintain your overall lung health. These include regularly exercising your lungs, maintaining a healthy weight, and following a healthy diet.

Learn more about Other Respiratory Issues, here.


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Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.


It’s All About Sex: Male-Female Differences in Lung Development and Disease  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2391086/ Accessed October 6, 2020

Respiratory Function of University Students Living at High Altitude https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4175264/ Accessed October 6, 2020

Physiology, Lung Capacity https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK541029/ Accessed October 6, 2020

Lung Capacity https://ib.bioninja.com.au/standard-level/topic-6-human-physiology/64-gas-exchange/lung-capacity.html Accessed October 6, 2020

Lung Capacity and Aging https://www.lung.org/lung-health-diseases/how-lungs-work/lung-capacity-and-aging Accessed October 6, 2020

Effects of Smoking on Chest Expansion, Lung Function, and Respiratory Muscle Strength of Youths  https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3944281/ Accessed October 6, 2020

Dietary Antioxidants and 10-Year Lung Function Decline in Adults from the ECRHS Survey https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5739275/ Accessed October 6, 2020

Breathing Life Into Your Lungs https://www.health.harvard.edu/lung-health-and-disease/breathing-life-into-your-lungs Accessed October 6, 2020

How to Increase Lung Capacity in 5 Steps https://lunginstitute.com/blog/increase-lung-capacity-5-easy-steps/ Accessed October 6, 2020


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Written by Mayvilyn Cabigao Updated Jun 15
Fact Checked by Dr. Jeannette Daquinag