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How to Exercise Your Lungs

You probably knew that exercise builds up your muscles – but did you know that it can also build up your lungs? Learning how to exercise your lungs can improve their capacity and have a significant positive effect on your overall health.

How to Exercise Your Lungs

Have you noticed that it’s a little easier for you to get winded than it used to be? It’s probably not your imagination. Your lungs continue to mature until the age of 25, then begin to decline in function in your late 30s. This is caused by normal aging events such as loss of muscle mass and a reduction of skin elasticity in lung tissue.

Since you naturally lose some lung capacity as you age, it’s important for seniors to be proactive about lung health. There are many things you can do to improve lung health that you’re probably already familiar with, such as quitting smoking and getting regular exercise. However, some seniors don’t realize that there are exercises that can specifically improve lung capacity. Regularly exercising your lungs can give you more endurance for daily activities, and also help your body flush out pollutants like allergens and airborne toxins. Strong lungs are a key part of maintaining good health well into your golden years.

What Kinds of Exercises Build Lung Capacity?

It may seem odd that your lungs need exercise. After all, you use them every day. However, most daily activities only use about half of your lung capacity. Your lungs need to be challenged in order to grow stronger.

When learning how to exercise your lungs, it’s helpful to focus on your core and upper body strength as well. Strengthening your core can improve the strength of your diaphragm, or the muscle underneath your lungs that helps push air in and out of them. It also improves your posture, which makes breathing easier. Aside from these general areas, there are some specific activities you can add to your exercise routine to improve lung health:

Active Breathing Exercises

A simple way to improve your lung capacity is to practice active breathing exercises. With pursed-lips breathing, you can breathe in through your nose and breathe out through your mouth, keeping your lips pursed to force the lungs to work harder to push air out. You should try to breathe out twice as long as you breathe in. Diaphragmatic breathing is similar, with the goal of feeling your stomach rise and fall to give your diaphragm a workout as well as your lungs.

Adding Resistance to Aerobic Exercise

Vigorous aerobic exercise, such as swimming or power walking, can be an effective way to improve your lung capacity. For maximum lung-building impact, you should include high-resistance aerobic activities to get your lungs working at their full capacity. Practice walking with hand or ankle weights, or walking up hills and other inclines. The more your body gets used to working through resistance, the more your lung capacity will improve.

Interval Training

If you’re struggling to get through high-resistance workouts, you may want to change your initial approach. Interval training can help improve your lung capacity by focusing on short bursts of aerobic activity, followed by a brief period of rest and recovery. With enough interval practice, your lung capacity should improve to the point that you can exercise more continuously.

Meditative Breathing Exercises

You don’t have to be in the middle of a workout to exercise your lungs. Meditative breathing exercises also improve your lung capacity and have the added benefit of reducing stress and providing an overall calming effect. You can try alternate nostril breathing, where you hold one nostril closed and then the other as you breathe in and out, or bee breathing, where you hum as you slowly release breaths from your nose. These exercises are a great way to unwind after a workout and still keep your lungs active.


As always, you should consult with a doctor before adding anything to your movement routine. This is particularly important if you’re already dealing with a respiratory issue, like pneumonia or COPD. Discuss how to exercise your lungs with your doctor at your next wellness visit.

Are you looking for an assisted living community in Tennessee? Check out Hearthside Senior Living in Collierville and Bartlett. Our warm and inviting communities make it easy for seniors to embrace a healthy lifestyle, with home-cooked and restaurant-style meals, exercise classes, and a nurse devoted to residents’ health and wellness. We would be happy to schedule a tour for you so that you can explore the community, speak with the Community Director, meet some of the residents, and ask any questions you might have. To learn more about our amenities and services, please call 901-266-3329 (Bartlett) or 901-854-6590 (Collierville). We look forward to meeting you!

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