Medical questions & health advice by board certified doctors
"What lung strengthening exercises are most effective?"
Should I try holding my breath? I am a swimmer and am trying to increase my capacity.
Although it does make some intuitive sense that your capacity as a swimmer would be related to the strength of your lungs, this is actually something of a misconception. Increasing the capacity of a swimmer, or of any other athlete, is a much more complex physiological process than that. The bottom line is that exercise capacity is directly related to the body's ability to move oxygen around to the various tissues that need it. Increasing exercise capacity therefore includes increasing the lungs' ability to move air, the heart's ability to pump blood, and the various muscles and organs' ability to extract the oxygen from the blood stream. The way to make all of this happen is to train. Increasing the stress you put on your body with aerobic training will trigger adaptive responses from all the various parts of your body that are involved in exercise capacity, causing them to become more efficient and more powerful. Isolated exercises like breath holding will not really help you, because they do not involve the kind of aerobic stress that produces capacity. I suggest that you talk to your sports medicine doctor about safely developing your training regimen.
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