How to Increase Lung Capacity in Order to Run Longer

Updated on March 29, 2016

Increase lung capacity and improve overall stamina

Interestingly, whenever people start a new exercise plan, they rarely do so prepared. Understanding that your body may not be ready for a lot of stress all of a sudden is the first step in creating a healthy exercise regime. Lung capacity is one of the most important factors you must consider before starting to do any exercises, especially cardiovascular. Your lungs are often not ready for what you have in mind, and you need to heed some crucial advice before you start a new routine.

We all strive to be in the best possible shape, but it can be increasingly difficult with the fast life pace to find enough time to exercise regularly. This causes us to neglect our fitness routines entirely or exercise irregularly and generally not in a proper way.

Running is one of the most efficient ways to maintain a great shape and strengthen our bodies, but most of the time we take it too lightly. We figure, "It's just running, how hard or complicated can it be?" This attitude is probably the worst attitude you can have when deciding on a running plan, and it is especially bad for your lungs.

In this article we will speak about lung capacity, its crucial importance for your general health and we will give advice on how to build it up gradually in order to have more stamina, more oxygen in your muscles and generally feel stronger than ever.

Lung capacity determines how long you will endure in any exercise

Try to build up lung capacity slowly, one step at a time

Your lung capacity will determine how long you will be able to perform and exercise, particularly cardio. Considering our unhealthy lifestyles, pollution, or sedentary habits and a lot of other factors, a lot of us probably have a lot smaller lung capacity than we should for our age and gender, which is extremely detrimental for our overall health.

How to notice reduced lung capacity?

If you have ever hurried somewhere or climbed a flight of stairs, followed by heavy sweating, panting and sometimes even awful muscle soreness, then you can bet your lung capacity is not very good. This is fairly simple to understand, but also very hard to accept.

You must remember - everything you have allowed to happen to your body is usually your fault, and your fault only! The health of your lungs is in your hands.

There are naturally a few exceptions where a person has this or that medical issue which has caused their lungs to suffer for it, but most of these cases are also able to build their lung capacity just like the rest.

Do you think you have reduced lung capacity?

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Lung capacity and running

Gradual running to slowly build healthy lung capacity

When you are just starting your running regime, you may be a bit too hasty (no pun intended) to get the results you want and you often disregard good advice. Maybe the summer is approaching and you wish to be in the best possible shape to show off your chiseled physique, or maybe you just want to feel better and healthier. Whatever the reasons, running is a high impact cardio exercise that burns a lot of calories and is very beneficial for you and your general health.

The first step when starting running is, however, building up your lung capacity in order for your lungs to be able to provide enough oxygen to your muscles. You will notice that if you are not in a good shape, you start breathing heavily and gasping for air very soon after you start running.

This is because your lungs cannot satisfy the oxygen needs of your muscle tissue, which makes you wheeze and your muscles burn. Because of this, you tire quickly, and have to stop to catch your breath. You need to realize that proper breathing is a learned skill.

There are, however, simple steps you should follow to build up your lung capacity and start running efficiently and keep at it longer and longer each time. This way you will be able to reach perfect health and shape in a shorter span of time.


Do some breathing exercises several days before your first run

Prepare your lungs to breathe heavily

In order to be ready for your first run, you have to be sure you will be able to last at least for a few minutes in a proper form. To do this, there are several exercises you can do at home to help expand your lung capacity and be able to take in more air that you usually need.

Note that these exercises are especially beneficial for the lungs of smokers and people who just stopped smoking and that they will be able to achieve better health if they follow these routines.

Breathing exercises typically involve simple steps and are relatively easy to do anyplace, which is a great advantage. You can do them at home in any situation and with no preparation, you can do them at work when you have a short break, you can even do them while walking. You only need your lungs to do them.

A breathing exercise that expands your lung capacity and improves your running performance and overall stamina is done by taking in as much air as possible and holding it for about 20 seconds. If you cannot hold your breath at full lung capacity for 20 seconds, then hold your breath for as long as you can and then increase duration gradually. This will set up your lungs to receive more and more air each time. Repeat 3 or 4 times in one series.

Always find something that motivates you!

Some variations of breathing exercises

Correct way to perform lung exercises

When doing breathing exercises, it's important also to mind your posture in order to have the maximum effect on your lung capacity.

  • The first and the easiest method to perform this exercise for lungs is to stand up, place your hands on your hips, and take a deep breath so that you can actually feel your rib cage expand to the maximum. Count to 20, and then exhale as slowly as humanly possible. Repeat 3 or 4 times.
  • The second method of building lung capacity is a bit more demanding as it requires you to be in an upright position, take a deep breath to expand your lungs and then slowly bend over to touch your toes with fingertips. After that, slowly release the air you are holding on your way back to the upright position. Repeat this exercise 4 or 5 times, but keep in mind that it is more strenuous than the previous one, so you might want to start with the first one in case you never tried breathing exercises before.
  • The third simple breathing exercise is a bit more fun (at least for me). This one is actually done while walking, and is fairly simple. It implies that you take a deep breath to expand your lungs to the max, and then walk 15 steps before releasing it. If you cannot hold your breath for 15 steps, do less, and if you can do more, by all means. This method will give you better insight in how you are progressing.

Am I ready to run?

Are my lungs in a better shape now?

After doing breathing exercises continuously for a little while, you should be able to notice that you breathe less heavily when performing certain activities that made you pant before. You should be able to walk fast without flushing too much and losing your breath entirely. You should be able to have a kick start at your running plan.

The important thing for beginner runners is not to start their exercise regimes too recklessly and remember that our bodies are made such that they always gradually accommodate to new "stress".

Try to run in smaller intervals and walk in between sessions of running in order to regain your breath and composure. If you strain yourself in a continuous run your muscles may overflow with lactic acid (which is that infamous muscle burn) and your session for the day will end sooner than it could. If you run and walk in intervals, you will progress faster and enable your lungs to accommodate to your oxygen needs. This will result in better stamina, increased lung capacity and better circulation and more oxygen in your blood and tissues.


Whatever exercise you prefer, it's good to have a heart rate monitor

Get that heart pumping!

Your lungs and your heart benefit from running and exercising in general equally. Your lungs provide the oxygen for your blood and your heart makes sure it gets to your muscles that need it. It's important to maintain your heart rate at a certain level if you know what kind of results you aim for. Monitor your heart rate at all times!

In the long run, increased lung capacity will mean more stamina, better overall fitness and you certainly won't feel tired after doing some menial things you have to do every day. You will have elevated energy levels, feel stronger and generally be able to meet all your fitness and weight loss goals.


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    • profile image


      3 months ago

      if you are a more advanced long distance runner and are in the best of shape will these exercises still help your lung capacity? Or will the improvements be unnoticeable.

    • profile image

      aaditya kashyap 

      18 months ago

      did it the most of all.....wonderfull

    • krazzyK profile image


      4 years ago from silicon city

      Wow this helps in almost all kinds of exercises... thanks for posting this hub..

    • Easy Exercise profile image

      Kelly A Burnett 

      4 years ago from United States

      I have just taken up running and while I have always taught my fitness clients about deep breathing, you tie together very nicely the need for deep breathing and cardiovascular exercise.

      I will print off the breathing exercises and try each one. Excellent guidance. Thank you very much!

    • JPSO138 profile image


      4 years ago from Cebu, Philippines, International

      A great hub.. Running is indeed a great way to gain endurance.

    • ChitrangadaSharan profile image

      Chitrangada Sharan 

      4 years ago from New Delhi, India

      Wonderful hub!

      You are so right that we must gradually increase our lung capacity to exercise more or run longer and it should not be hasty. Your 3 breathing exercises are correct way to do it--I actually performed it and felt better.

      Thanks for sharing this useful and informative hub!

      Voted up!


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