The Total Lung Capacity (TLC) is the volume of air your lungs can hold at any given point in time and is also a measure of how healthy your lungs are.
Your lung capacity is a predictor of your health & longevity (mortality rate).
The higher your lung capacity, the easier it is for you to inhale & exhale.
Most people do not make use of their complete lung capacity.
How Does Exercise Impact Lung Health?
When you exercise, your heart and lungs work hard. When you work out, the muscles need more oxygen to handle the stress. Hence, the heart starts pumping blood faster, and the lungs need to provide more oxygen to the body to match up.
Normal adults at rest breathe in 6-8 liters of air per minute. When you are exercising, your lungs take in up to 100 liters of air per minute!
This improves the capacity of the lungs to hold more air. With regular exercise, your lung capacity will improve.
Importance of Exercise for Lung Capacity
Exercise Makes Lungs Stronger
Just like how exercise makes your muscles stronger, it also strengthens your lungs by encouraging them to work harder.
Exercise Promotes Smoother Oxygen Delivery
Exercise ensures your body can receive oxygen quicker and more smoothly. People who exercise can receive oxygen from their lungs better than those who are not physically active.
Exercise Prevents Shortness of Breath
You develop shortness of breath when your lung capacity is low. Regular exercise can ensure that your lung capacity increases, thus preventing breathlessness.
Diaphragmatic Exercises Improve Lung Capacity
Diaphragmatic exercises are those that use the diaphragm, which is an important muscle to help you inhale and exhale. Practicing diaphragmatic exercises can make inhalation and exhalation better and improve lung capacity.
The Influence Of Genetics On Lung Capacity
VO2max is the maximum amount of oxygen a person can use during intense physical activities. When your lung capacity increases, the VO2max improves and vice-versa.
VO2max is a very important factor for athletes, sportspeople, and endurance trainers.
The ADRB2 gene is responsible for dilating the airways (bronchodilation) and also handles calcium channels. Variations in the gene cause an increased risk of asthma.
rs1042713 and Lung Capacity
The G allele in the rs1042713 SNP of the ADRB2 gene is associated with the widening of blood vessels (vasodilation) when the person exercises. Vasodilation leads to an increase in VO2max and increases the availability of oxygen for working out.
IL6 Gene and Lung Capacity
The IL6 gene is a protein-coding gene responsible for increasing and reducing inflammation in the body.
A specific type of variation in the IL6 gene is responsible for increased VO2max values and favors people in sprint sports.
rs1800795 and Lung Capacity
As part of a study, 54 healthy military individuals were put to an 8-week long intensive training program. During this period, their VO2max values were studied.
At the end of 8 weeks, their VO2max levels were noted. People with the CG genotype of the rs1800795 SNP had a 10.8% increase in their VO2max values. Those with the GG genotype had a 6.7% increase. The one's with CC genotype had the lowest improvements in VO2max values (5.1%).
Non-genetic Influences on Lung Capacity
Age: By the age of 25, your lungs, along with your lung capacity, develop fully. For the next ten years, lung capacity levels remain the same. Post this, it slowly begins to decline. By 65 years of age, intense activities may render you breathless.
Gender: Men and women have different lung capacities. Healthy adult men can hold up to 1.5 pints of air in any breathing cycle. Women have relatively lower lung capacity (0.6-0.8 pints).
Height: The height of a person also influences lung capacity. The taller the person, the higher the lung capacity.
Weight: People who are overweight or obese have lowered lung capacities than those who weigh in the normal range.
COPD: Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD) is a group of lung diseases that cause breathlessness, cough, and wheezing. Severe forms of COPD results in reduced lung capacity. Here is the lung capacity percentage based on the stage of COPD.
- Mild COPD - >80%
- Moderate COPD - 50-70%
- Severe COPD - 30-50%
- Extreme COPD - <30%
Effects of Too Much Exercising on the Lungs
Exercise is healthy for the lungs and slowly improves lung capacity. However, too much exercise can be harmful to the lungs in a few cases.
The elderly and those with existing lung conditions have to look out for the below symptoms when exercising.
- Chest pain
- Excess shortness of breath
- Pain around the chest, arms, and shoulders
- Dizziness and nausea
- Exercise-induced asthma: Exercise-induced asthma is a condition that is triggered by strenuous exercise.
You will need to be on medications if so. Indoor exercises are better as the dust and allergies in the environment trigger this condition most times.
Recommendations to Improve Lung Capacity
Breathing exercises: By performing breathing exercises, you can increase the amount of oxygen you take in with each breath, and therefore your lung capacity as well.
Stay physically active: Push yourself gently to stay active. Practice some form of exercise at least 3-4 times a week. Mix up low, moderate, and high-intensity training to make your lungs stronger.
Improve your vitamin D intake: Vitamin D, along with rehabilitation exercises, can prevent inflammation of the airways and improve your lung health. This is recommended for those with COPD.
Antioxidant-rich foods: Antioxidant-rich foods prevent inflammation in the body, including in the airways, and improves inhalation and exhalation.
- Total Lung Capacity (TLC) is the volume of air you can hold at any given moment. TLC is one of the factors that determine how healthy your lungs are.
- VO2max is the measure of how much oxygen you use when you are performing physically strenuous tasks. The better your VO2max, the better will be your lung capacity.
- When you exercise, your lung muscles get stronger. Your lung capacity gradually improves to match the demand for oxygen in the body.
- Certain variations in the ADRB2 gene helps dilate your blood vessels and improve VO2max. Variations in the IL6 gene cause increase in VO2max values in people who exercise.
- Factors like age, gender, height, weight, and existing lung conditions all affect lung capacity.
- Excessive exercising can end up being counterproductive in certain cases - especially in older adults and people with other lung conditions.
- Practicing breathing exercises, staying physically active, improving vitamin D intake, and eating antioxidant-rich foods all help improve lung capacity.