Physical Pointers

4 Fun Exercises to Improve Your Lung Strength and Capacity

Sonja Benčina

May 17, 2021

As natural and automatic breathing may seem, our lungs, like everything else in our body, grow weaker with age. Fortunately for us, there are certain exercises that can make them more efficient or, in old age, maintain their strength and capacity. For shooters, increased lung capacity may be beneficial in moments of stress, as the lungs will deliver more oxygen into the brain and remove carbon dioxide, essentially increasing focus and calming you down. For a basic breathing technique that helps you be calmer, read our previous blog post.

A trained body does even basic exercises more easily. A trained lung makes breathing more efficient. Let’s take a look at 4 fun exercises to improve your lung strength and capacity.

Look, Mom, No Hands!

You will need a piece of paper, a paper towel, or a sheet of toilet paper for this exercise. Stand facing a wall, your head should be 10 to 20 cm away from the wall. Place the paper product of your choice on the wall in front of your mouth. Take a deep breath, then begin blowing and remove your hands from the paper. For how long can you keep the piece of paper “glued” to the wall? Try finding the perfect strength of the current of air you’re letting out so that you’ll maximize the time before the paper falls down.

Breathing Sucks

This exercise will really let you feel the muscles around your lungs and expand your ribcage. Sit comfortably, take a few deep breaths then exhale all air from your lungs. This time, when you breathe in, try doing it as if air were a liquid: suck it in through your mouth in small sips or gulps. Be sure to use your diaphragm to draw breath in, but feel your whole ribcage expand as you fill it with air. Try and get in as many sips as you can. Repeat this only up to 5 times as you risk hyperventilation (too much oxygen in your brain) and stop as soon as you feel any kind of dizziness.

It's a Doggy Dog World

Coming from the world of wind and brass instruments, this exercise is called timed panting. Sit or stand in a relaxed way, focus, and begin panting through your nose: sniff air quickly in and out. Your goal is to achieve a speedy rate of panting (around five rapid breaths in and out per second) and maintain it for as long as you can. At first, you will probably last around 5 seconds, but with exercise, you will be able to pant for several minutes. This is another exercise that can cause hyperventilation (but less so than if you panted through your mouth) so make sure you stop at any sign of dizziness.

Typhoon

This exercise will make you into a superhero moving things around your home with your breath only! It’s quite simple, really. Pick a light moving object – curtains would be perfect. Stand at a certain distance from them and blow. If they move, step back. Blow again. Repeat until the curtains stop moving when you blow. Remember where you stood and try again the next day. Did you succeed in making the distance longer? Also: what is the best technique to achieve maximum typhoon strength? With your lips tightly pursed or wide apart? Blowing quickly or slowly but steadily?

A girl doing a breathing exercise to increase lung strength
Sonja from Team Aiming Art found a cooperative plant to test her power blow.

These are only a few exercises that will help you improve the health of your lungs. Coaches can use them to draw attention to this important part of any athlete’s routine and increase awareness of what is perceived as a basic human function. If you have asthma or any illness affecting your lungs, do them carefully and never overdo them.

Now allow us to let you in on a little secret: however well-designed these exercises may be, nothing beats two things nature itself designed for us: a) moving about with an increased heart rate and slightly out of breath, and b) having a good time with your friends and laughing your heart out. Practice those and fill your lungs with positive energy.

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