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Can Breath Holding exercises build strong lungs??

Discussion in 'Diving Medicine' started by TRUETEXAN, Apr 8, 2002.


    TRUETEXAN Barracuda

    I was just wondering if there was any proof that breath holding exercises strengthened lungs. This is something I started doing when I was a small child with my friends to see who could hold their breath the longest, and it is something that I still do to this day on a fairly frequent basis, not while diving of course. I know it sounds likea silly thing for an adult to do, but I also find that it helps me relax and calm myself when I am mad. I realize people are probably going to think I am nuts, but the only way I know to get an answer to a question is ask it.
  2. The Chairman

    The Chairman Chairman of the Board

    # of Dives: I just don't log dives
    Location: Cave Country!
    I am able to lift whole automobiles with my lungs... :tease:

    Actually, the ability to hold your breath longer does seem to come from practice and, of course, building your stamina and fitness. As for "stronger lungs", I am not sure how to quantify that.
  3. devjr

    devjr Manta Ray

    Tex, if it feels good, do it. Developing a confident attitude toward breath holding doesn't seem to have a down side for divers. Moreover, if a meditative state can be achieved it could promote stress relief.

    Lung capacity or "strong lungs" has traditionally been tied to aerobic activity like running, particularly at high altitude. It is also associated with diet. Recent research showed that people who eat apples exhibit increased lung capacity. The general wisdom is that antioxidants in fruit are the active agent. I'm not sure about this.

    The size of the chest cavity has an influence on lung capacity. In a young man this can be increased by lying on a medicine ball or bench which places pressure on the broadest part of the back, reaching with the arms outstretched behind the head and pulling a barbell over the head to the chest.

    This outfit sells a device to "strengthen" lungs. Don't know if it works, just FYI.

  4. ScubyDoo

    ScubyDoo Barracuda

    # of Dives: 200 - 499
    Location: Little Rock, Arkansas
    I see nothing wrong with a breath holding hobby. It could come in real handy some day, possibly even help save a life. The guy who won $50K last night on "Fear Factor" won because he held his breath underwater for over 2 minutes, so it could also be a financial windfall for you as well.

    By the way, how long can you hold your breath? Do you hyperventilate before hand? On the show "Freediving" last night on OLN network, they had a women who was attempting to break the world record for "static" diving. This is basically holding your breath at just below the water surface. She made it 5 min. and 50 seconds. The record I think is 6:20.....Wow!
  5. tchil01

    tchil01 Barracuda

    I've always done this too, and now I have my kids doing it too. We are always having contest to see who can hold their breath the longest. Until I took up diving though I never knew about hyperventilating yourself before you started holding your breath. We don't go overboard with that though and limit it to two deep breaths before starting a contest. I'm not sure if it builds stronger lungs, but my 8 year old daughter can hold her breath for close to 2 minutes.

  6. Lloyd

    Lloyd Nassau Grouper

    The one draw back to breath holding is that it can increase your tolerance to CO2 levels in your blood. This can decrease your breathe reflex and contribute to shallow water blackouts.
  7. devjr

    devjr Manta Ray

    I agree on the CO2, if any of these kids start to approach six minutes breath hold time somebody better raise a flag, or sign them up.
  8. Red Rover

    Red Rover Angel Fish

    If you want to build strong lungs and increase your breath holding abilities, then run a lot and work the lungs. High impact sprints work great.

    Red Rover
  9. The Iceni

    The Iceni Medical Moderator

    Well Truetexan, my first comment has to be that since the lungs are not muscle there is no way that they can be "strengthened".

    I suggest that what you are aiming at is a way of increasing respiratory efficiency, or minute volume (SAC). That is, using the lungs to move greater volumes of gas with each breath and perhaps take more breaths per minute.

    If your lungs are healthy regular aerobic exercise will make the respiratory muscles stronger, to inhale more, faster with each breath and perhaps to breath faster but the limiting factor, in the vast majority of individuals, is the lack of ability to breath out any faster since this is totally depended on airway patency, which you cannot change significantly.

    For instance, when asthmatics suffer an attack, all that happens when they try forcibly to breath out is their smaller, unsupported, airways collapse because the pressure in the chest (outside the airways) is much greater than the pressure within them (atmospheric). Indeed the more an asthmatic tries to overcome his attack by breathing more forcefully, the worse he makes it! Airway patency is also the limiting factor is healthy individuals and is usually measured by a peak flow meter, or a spirometer.

    When you let go of an inflated toy baloon, the unsupported part of the nozzle vibrates as it opens and closes due to the venturi effect. It can be deflated much more quickly if the nozzle is held open by piece of tubing, but there is no way you can strengthen the smaller airways in your lungs!

    This is not to deride the considerable benefits of exercise to improve everall cardivascular and respiratory fitness. :doctor:

    Ty mentions a party trick we did as inquisitive children. If you hyperventilate and blow off all your CO2 and then hold your breath, the build-up of CO2 (to reach the overwhelming reflect threshold to breath) takes longer than it takes to use up the oxygen in your blood stream. You become hypoxic and momentarily lose conciousness! (Not to be recommended). Thankfully, once you become unconcious you can no longer fight reflex respiratory drive and breath normally again.

    Breath holding practice, does increase this CO2 threshold, as indeed does scuba diving. By regularly exposing the chemorecptors to higher levels of pp CO2 they learn to treat such high levels as "normal" and reset the "thermostat".

    I am not sure that this means it is wise to do so intentionally. :boom:
  10. AquaTec

    AquaTec Instructor, Scuba

    # of Dives:
    Location: Whistler, British Columbia, Canada
    what i know about breath holding


    but i do hang out with a lot of freedivers. some are world record holders.

    with very little practice and knowledge on how you should be able to double the time you can hold your breath.

    it was proved to me by sitting in on a course that a friend was teaching.

    i can give you some web sites if interested but i need to run now, just pm me and it will remind me to look them up

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