Exercises to Increase Lung Capacity

Lung capacity naturally decreases with age, but people with lung conditions or breathing difficulties experience a faster decline in lung capacity, causing shortness of breath, difficulty breathing and anxiety. Fortunately, certain exercises can help increase your lung capacity so you can breathe better. Try the following exercises to help improve your lung capacity.

Diaphragmatic Breathing

Many people with breathing difficulties experience weakening diaphragm muscles, causing dysfunctional breathing that uses surrounding muscles in the neck, ribs and shoulders. Unfortunately, this doesn’t move air in and out of the lungs effectively. Diaphragmatic breathing, also called belly breathing, strengthens the abdominal muscles and the diaphragm to encourage proper breathing technique. Here’s an exercise you can use to train yourself:

1.  Lay on a mat with a pillow under your bent knees.

2.  Place one hand on your abdomen just below your waist and your other hand on your chest.

3.  Inhale deeply and slowly through your nose, pushing your abdomen out while inhaling. The hand on your abdomen should move outward, but keep your chest, neck, ribs and shoulder muscles still.

4.  Exhale slowly through pursed lips while pushing gently in and up on your abdomen to empty your lungs completely.

5.  Repeat four times.

This exercise feels tiring initially, but with daily practice, diaphragmatic breathing becomes automatic.

Pursed-Lip Breathing

Pursed-lip breathing helps slow and regulate your breathing, reducing the work of breathing for many patients. Pursed-lip breathing helps to increase positive pressure within the airways, keeping your airways open longer for improved air flow. It also increases tidal volume, or the volume of air that is moved in and out of the lungs during each ventilation cycle, allowing you to fully exhale any air trapped in your lungs. This results in improved alveolar ventilation and more effective gas exchange, which allows more oxygen to enter your bloodstream and carbon dioxide to exit through your lungs more effectively. Here’s the technique:

1.  Sit up straight, relaxing your neck and shoulder muscles.

2.  Inhale slowly through your nose, keeping your mouth closed, for a count of two. No need to aim for a full deep breath here.

3.  Purse your lips as though whistling or blowing out a candle and exhale through pursed lips for a count of four.

4.  Repeat four times a day. 

This exercise can also be used to ease breathlessness and anxiety.

Practice Filling and Emptying Your Lungs

Once you’ve practiced the exercises above, you’ll know what it should feel like to breathe correctly. At that point, you can practice fully filling and emptying your lungs without using the incorrect muscles to do so. Here’s how:

1.  Stand upright with relaxed knees.

2.  Bend down slowly at your waist, pushing air all the way out of your lungs.

3.  Slowly come back to standing upright while inhaling, with your knees relaxed, filling your lungs completely using the diaphragmatic breathing techniques.

4.  Hold your breath for about 20 seconds, raising your arms over your head.

5.  After 20 seconds, slowly bring your arms down and exhale through pursed lips, coming back to a fully relaxed position.

6.  Repeat four times.

Author: Inogen, an oxygen concentrator company

About Us: Inogen develops innovative, cost-effective respiratory home health care equipment that improves quality of life for patients and operational efficiency for providers.

Contact: by phone at 1-800-695-7915, or visit Inogen.com.