How to increase lung capacity for running

How to increase lung capacity for running - main image

Lung capacity, breathing exercises, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease… there’s a lot to our respiratory systems so let’s better them

Lung capacity is essential for so many things. Transporting oxygenated blood around your body, extending your lifespan (Useful, so I’ve heard), and molecular level benefits that are almost too numbered to name. So without going too into it here all you need to know at this stage is that lung function is paramount to athletic performance.

But surely breathing is breathing, there can’t be anything to do other than inhale and exhale?


As tiny are the details of respiratory muscles and function, so are the ways in which you can benefit from those functions. Deep breathing exercises, belly breathing, incremental deep breath training, and even an alternate pathway breathing exercise… will all help your aerobic capacity, efficiency and anaerobic aiding.

Want to be a better runner?

Carry on reading.

Belly breathing exercises

Belly breathing is one of my personal favourites when it comes to aerobic capacity increases. Belly breathing can be done both before and during an intense cardio workout. Simply, you want to draw as much breath as possible, taking long and deep breaths to reach your Vo2 Max and max lung intake. This will essentially maximise the amount of oxygenated blood cells that can flow to your muscles and support their performance.

An exercise for this might look like –

  • Lie on your back with your knees bent and feet on the floor.
  • Place both hands on your stomach.
  • Take a deep breath into your stomach (not your chest).
  • If you’re breathing correctly, your hands will rise and fall as your stomach fills with air.
  • Do 10 of these before running.

Rhythmic breathing exercises

If you think about it the body is essentially a tight clock, a rhythm box that relies heavily on the pacing of movement. I am of course talking internally, combining bodily systems that share a symbiotic relationship. Well, two aspects that are bolstered heavily by synchronicity would be your foot strike timing and breathing pattern.

”The idea is to alternate the foot that strikes the ground when exhaling, to reduce the chance of repetitive impact causing injury.” – Medium, 2019.

And an exercise for this could be something like –

  • Make sure you’re breathing into your belly, not your chest (see above).
  • Create a breathing-running pattern. Some runners inhale for three steps and then exhale for two.
  • This technique takes practice. The main goal is to avoid exhaling on the same footstrike over and over.


These are just two exercises and areas that can improve lung capacity for running, and lung capacity before you’ve even begun to exercise. You can employ some of this mid-run but it’s important to increase aerobic capacity as regular exercise too.

In any case, lung health extends far beyond breathing exercises. Make sure you keep inflammatory foods to a minimum, aid your lung’s microbiome in all the ways you can and, obviously stop smoking.


What is diaphragmatic breathing?

Diaphragmatic breathing is a deep breathing exercise that fully engages the diaphragm and increases the efficiency of the lungs.

Poor lung health vs lungs healthy – how does carbon dioxide decide this?

Rapid breathing and confusion can be caused by too much carbon dioxide. People who have respiratory issues may then become tired or lose consciousness altogether.

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