Lung capacity is defined as the total volume of air in the lungs, after taking a deep breath; whereas lung volume is the physical dimensions of the lungs. Lung capacity is calculated using the different lung volumes during inhalation and exhalation. The lung capacity is measured with a spirometer; and an average human being can hold about five to six liters of air in his/her lungs. In case of normal breathing, this capacity is not fully used.
You might have heard of the high lung capacity of athletes, singers, and musicians who use wind instruments. This is very important for them, because they must have control over their breathing. However, increasing lung capacity is beneficial for all human beings. Apart from enhancing the stamina, an increased lung capacity is good for overall health.
How to Increase Lung Capacity
Cardiovascular Activities: Cardiovascular exercises are perfect for increasing lung capacity and for enhancing cardiovascular function. Walking, running, jogging, rowing, swimming, dancing, skiing, cycling, skating, and aerobic exercises, should be done on a regular basis. Don’t overdo any of these activities, to avoid strain on your muscles or any other injury. These exercises are also good for the muscles. They involve consistent movement of the large muscles of the body, which triggers a strong demand for oxygen. Therefore the rate of breathing increases to satisfy the demand of oxygen, thereby increasing lung capacity to a certain extent.
Breathing Exercises: Practicing deep breathing techniques is good for increasing lung function and capacity. All you have to do is to lie down and relax. Take a deep breath and hold it for about 10 seconds, before exhaling slowly. Repeat this process for 20 to 30 minutes on a regular basis. You may also perform basic breathing techniques, like ‘pranayama’, as practiced in yoga. Pranayama helps to increase lung capacity and gain control over breathing. This breathing technique is also good for restoring concentration, calming the nervous system, relieving stress, regulating heartbeats, and for warding off insomnia. Pursed lip breathing is another breathing technique, which is beneficial for the lungs. Initially, you have to lie down and practice this technique. Later on, you may perform this while walking, or while doing any other activity. In this technique, you have to inhale deeply through the nose and exhale through the mouth, with the lips pursed. The exhalation should be longer than the inhalation, so that the chest experiences some pressure, while exhaling. It is always better to learn breathing techniques from a qualified trainer, so that you can perform them in the right way.
Playing Wind Instruments: Wind instruments can be of much help to increase lung power. Instruments, like flute, clarinet, mouth organ, saxophone, tuba, and oboe require good lung capacity to play intricate music, that too for a long duration. As you master the art of playing these instruments, your lung capacity will also increase; and you will learn to control breathing. If you learn the right diaphragm breathing techniques, which are needed to play these music instruments, it will help further. The same result can be achieved through singing. If you are a singer, you may adopt these measures for increasing lung capacity for singing.
High Altitude Training: You might have heard about some athletes living at higher altitudes, to develop a higher lung capacity. This is because, the level of oxygen at higher altitudes is lesser than that at the sea level; and in order to compensate for this, the body produces more red blood cells and hemoglobin. The body adapts to this condition and the lung capacity also increases substantially. Hence, people from higher altitudes have a higher lung capacity and red blood count; and can maintain this for about 10 to 15 days, once they reach sea level. However, it can be dangerous to go to very high altitudes and train hard, as it may result in altitude sickness.
Diet and Lifestyle: The most important factor, which can help you lead a healthy life is a healthy diet and a good lifestyle. As far as the diet is concerned, it should be rich in antioxidants, selenium, vitamin C and E, and beta carotene. For best results, you have to consume whole grains, nuts, wheat germ, vegetable oil, dark-colored fruits, and vegetables on a regular basis. Such a diet protects you from lung damage, and is good for smokers too. According to some studies, beta carotene is beneficial for protecting and strengthening the lungs; and this can be found abundantly in mangoes, carrots, apricots, sweet potatoes, peppers, and cantaloupes. A balanced diet, along with regular exercises, are the basics of a healthy lifestyle.