If exercise hasn’t been a normal part of your routine, starting this healthy habit can be challenging for many different reasons. At first, you might find it difficult to run uninterrupted for long periods of time. This might be due to muscle strength, but for many people, it’s reaching a point of feeling like they can’t breathe that stops them. The good news is it’s possible to build up stamina and get past that obstacle as your body starts to breathe better while exercising. Lung and breathing basics Your lungs are responsible for getting oxygen into your body and getting rid of carbon dioxide. Your heart and blood are what transports oxygen to your muscles and carries carbon dioxide away. Everyone has a different overall lung capacity based on their height, weight, and the altitude they live at. What happens during exercise During a workout, your muscles begin to require more oxygen, which ups the amount of breaths you take per minute. Resting, you usually take about 15 breaths per minute. Working out, you take around 40-50 breaths a minute. As you exercise harder, your heart rate and breathing rate will continue to increase until you reach your V02 max. This is the threshold at which your body cannot use any more oxygen no matter how much more you try to get.
Can you increase your lung capacity? Technically, the answer is no. Your lung capacity will always stay the same. However, what you can change is your V02 max. Increasing your V02 max threshold allows your body to use more oxygen. The average adult male has a V02 max of 50 milliliters per kilogram per minute. By contrast, Lance Armstrong’s V02 max has been measured in the 80’s. How do you breathe better while exercising? Here’s the answer you probably don’t want to hear: consistency. The more you work out, the better your body will adapt to exercise. Moderately intense exercise over time will increase your V02 max, but high-intensity interval training will speed this process up. Research has shown that 3-5 minutes of intense exercise followed by complete recovery and repeated three times is the best way to increase your oxygen efficiency. Working out regularly trains your body to be more efficient at exercise-related tasks. Frequent exercise increases your blood volume, which allows you go get more oxygen to your muscles more quickly. Your muscles will not only stop producing as much carbon dioxide while you exercise, but will be more efficient at getting rid of it.
Tips to breathe better while exercising: • Regularly do steady-state, moderate intensity exercise • Start doing HIIT workouts • Be consistent • Strengthen your breathing muscles (namely your diaphragm and intercostals) • Practice deep breathing exercises Breathing exercises you can do: • Practice taking deep breaths, breathing in long and slow to strengthen your diaphragm • Learn the difference between “chest breathing” and “belly breathing” by taking a breath with your hand on your stomach – if you’re breathing properly, your abdomen should rise and fall with each breath you take. • If your exercise of choice is running, inhale and exhale evenly by counting steps (breathe in for three steps, breathe out for three steps, etc.)
Sources: http://livehealthy.chron.com/total-lung-capacity-change-during-exercise-8579.html http://www.europeanlung.org/assets/files/en/publications/lungs-and-exercise-en.pdf http://www.quickanddirtytips.com/health-fitness/exercise/how-to-increase-your-lung-capacity http://www.active.com/swimming/articles/3-exercises-to-increase-your-lung-power