Thursday, 16 August 2012

How to double your lung capacity?

It is a question I've been trying unsuccessfully to answer for several years.

Ever since I heard someone quote a General (MacArthur?) stating that "Any fool could double their lung capacity" I've been curious as to whether it was really possible. My childhood experience of asthma and more recent experience of asthma attacks as an adult have made this quote something I want to believe.

I said earlier in the week that my breathing was improving while running. You would never believe me if you saw me ten minutes into a run!

It doesn't seem to matter whether I start off slow or fast (Though I'm more likely to collapse if I start off fast) - after five minutes I'm gasping for air, wondering whether my lungs will burst; unable to believe that my breathing is doing any good whatsoever!

As a family we laughed at the expressions some Olympians made during the distance races. I had to keep reminding myself that my own expression while on a run is undoubtedly worse. If I thought wearing a face mask wouldn't freak people out more than my gasping for air I would buy one.

But that is the first fifteen minutes or so. Fifteen to twenty minutes into a run and my body starts to adjust. I'm still struggling to breathe but nowhere near as much as during that initial time period.

While the rest of the run is hard - it is all about continuing to go. It seems to be that simple. As long as I don’t stop, I keep breathing, keep running and eventually I’ve made progress.

I wondered this morning if I've been trying the wrong search string for doubling lung capacity when using Google. I normally don't put quotation marks around search strings but maybe that is why I get millions of pages returned, most of which are irrelevant.

I tried the following search this morning and got five results:
"double his lung capacity"

Three of these seem relevant with the last two being ones I want to give more than a quick read and actually follow up by contacting the authors:

The Monitor

Ray Richardson testimonial on MidMichigan Health


Have you any experience with improving your lung capacity? If so, I would love to hear from you!


  1. This goal always puzzled me, how you were going to measure it and achieve it. I'm also a bit unclear about what "capacity" means. I doubt you can double the maximum volume, or maybe you just mean the tidal volume, maybe you can with that. You can't alter the uptake of oxygen by the blood, if that isn't near 100% then you're already very ill. People with COPD, lung cancer etc. are different, they've lost it, so getting it back isn't the same. Often this is due to problems in the alveoli or even the circulation, things a healthy normal person has working near 100% already. So, I've no idea, but if you find something, I'd be interested to hear it! Where did your original come from? And do they know anything reallY?

  2. This wasn't one of my best thought out goals.

    I don't know what my maximum lung capacity could be; what effect a drastic increase in capacity would have or if there is any scientific or other basis for trying to achieve this.

    But, having suffered through asthma I know that anything that enables me to breathe better is likely to be good. A couple of years ago I walked up to our doctor's because I had been increasingly getting short of breath. It is a short walk, a kilometer or so up a hill. I was wheezing by the time I got there.

    The doctor told me I was having an asthma attack. He measured my lung capacity using a peak flow meter and I recall my capacity was 250. (I don't understand the measurements but it is BTPS or L/min)

    I was given a course of steroids and after a week was up to 600. (My normal range appears to be around 500-550.) I felt amazing after that course of steroids. I think I had been getting progessively worse for over a year and suddenly I had a huge burst of energy. The steroids may have contributed but my body had become accustomed to struggling to breathe and suddenly had a much higher supply of oxygen.

    I'll keep trying to find the source of the original quote - maybe it was something as simple as cut out smoking. I suspect a lot of people may have the same benefit in terms of improvement to lungs from that as I had from getting treatment for an asthma attack. If so, then there's nothing to say I'm able to make that much improvement from where I'm at now.

  3. There is in fact a mask that supposedly improves lung function. It's called Elevation Training Mask.

  4. Thanks for that, I'll check it out.