Topic: Expanding Lung Capacity

Does anyone know of some recent research on expanding lung capacity? It intuitively makes sense that a regimen of regular exercise would keep one's cardiovascular system and lungs more efficient. But would it increase the vital capacity (the amount of air one can expell on a full breath) of the lungs?

Terry

Terry Ewell
Professor Bassoon, Towson University
Former President, IDRS
Former Principal Bassoon Hong Kong Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony

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Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Hi, Terry,
I don't know the answer to your question, but I do know there are machines that hospital patients use to measure the ability to expel air with force.

And Arnold Jacobs, in my one lesson with him, showed me how to breathe in fully and out forcibly into a bag or a paper sack, through my mouth only, with my nose clipped shut (figuratively), with an improvised pipe of some kind in my mouth, (a short tube of bassoon cane works good for me), for 4-5 times using my entire capacity.  Breathing the CO2 in the sack helps keep one from passing out.  Even then 4-5 times does something.

Evelyn

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Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Hi Terry

The "asthma awareness" people use a "flow meter" (which measures lung capacity) in public campaigns.
I know because I blew them away almost literally at a local school, when I stepped up and gave it a blast from my bassoon-exercised lungs.
They couldn't believe that I had such a great capacity for my age (past 50) and self-admitted lack of muscular fitness (I carry a few too many kilos of padding and avoid sport like the plague - though I walk regularly for cv exercise).

Its only anecdotal but I suggest you start with the asthma people - you may have to instigate some scientifically robust research on the topic.

Maybe get a flow meter for the next IDRS Conference and check all the participants out.
It would give you a fairly good sample no doubt.

Cheers Neville

Last edited by NevilleForsythe (2006-10-04 15:05:11)

Neville Forsythe
Christchurch New Zealand
Bassoonist / Teacher / Conductor

Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Arnold Jacobs is well known for his breathing methods.  Terry, I wonder if this book/DVD is what you are looking for.

http://www.windsongpress.com/focus%20on%20music/breathing%20gym.htm 

He also has some breathing devices.

http://www.windsongpress.com/breathing%20devices/Use_Devices.htm

Kent

Dr. Kent Moore
Principal Lecturer In Bassoon and Theory
Northern Arizona University

Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Thanks for your replies everyone. There is some good information here.

Let me see if I can phrase the question a bit better.

I think that we can all agree that exercises for the lungs and any aerobic exercise for the body as a whole will increase the efficiency of the lungs, that is, the lungs may more readily transfer oxygen to the blood.  In addition with use some one may be able to utilize the full capacity of the lungs better.

My question refers not to increased efficiency but rather to physically expanding the lungs and therefore their capacity. Clearly the ribs are not changing in size through exercise, well at least I have not heard of anyone suggest that. That being the case then the “cage” around the lungs allow for finite expansion in the thorax or chest. There may be room for downward expansion, however, with some displacement of organs.

What I am trying to explore is if there is evidence or literature that supports lung growth. Perhaps evidence that supports lung shrinkage?

Terry

Terry Ewell
Professor Bassoon, Towson University
Former President, IDRS
Former Principal Bassoon Hong Kong Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony

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Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Thoughts on expanding one’s lung capacity –

I believe Terry is thinking of vital capacity, or the volume of air released by a forced exhalation (expiration) after a maximal inspiration [am I right?]

Increasing vital capacity for playing a wind instrument can be achieved by two means: increasing the volume of inspired air, and improving (controlling) expiration. For better inspiration, it is possible to increase the volume of the chest cavity, since the ribs do move – they’re pivoted in the back at the vertebrae and at the front by the sternum and the costal cartilages. Getting them to move more can be helped by exercising the muscles of inspiration, both the diaphragm and the accessory muscles in the chest and neck. Greater diaphragm contraction force will probably do the major part of this, and, yes, it does push the abdominal contents down and compress them to a certain degree.

Squeezing out more air during expiration, the second method of improvement, involves (1) more effective use of the primary muscles of expiration – the abdominal group (rectus abdominis, internal and external obliques, and transversus for those who want anatomical names); (2) greater use of the accessory muscles – the intercostals, scalenes, and other neck muscles.

If the volume of the chest cavity is increased, the lungs will automatically expand to fill it – thus increasing their capacity. The muscles of expiration then take over to control both speed and minute volume of air outflow.

Hope this makes sense, without too much medical jargon.

Bill

Dr. Bill Dawson, bassoonist and teacher
IDRS medical consultant
Past President, Performing Arts Medicine Assoc.
Author of "Fit as a Fiddle: The Musician's Guide to Playing Healthy"

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Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Thanks, Bill, for your comments. Very helpful! Yes, I was thinking about vital capacity and I should have clarified that more.

(By the way, vital capacity is the full amount of air one can breathe out after a full breath. For young men that is about 4.8 liters; for young women it is about 3.4 liters. The lungs still retain air--residual volume--of about 1.2 liters that can't be forced out by exhalation.)

I came across two items that appear to address the issue of increased or decreased vital capacity:

1) In the early 20th century it was discovered that those employed in more sedentary occupations had a lower vital capacity than those engaged in more arduous work. (Charles Herbert Best, Best & Taylor’s Physiological Basis of Medical Practice, 10th edition (Baltimore: Williams & Wilkins Co, 1979), pp. 482-483.)

2) More recently Brain Simpson made national news in 2003 with his remarkable recovery from a near fatal asthmatic condition.  All medical options were exhausted for 32-year-old Simpson and to ease his despair he turned to listening to oboe recordings and finally to playing the oboe, and instrument he had not performed since high school. Mr. Simpson found that regular practice of the oboe increased his vital capacity from 25% to 50%. His condition improved so much that he was able to leave the hospice, reduce his medication, and begin performing with a local Pennsylvanian orchestra. (http://www.cbsnews.com/stories/2003/11/04/earlyshow/living/main581686.shtml)

Is anyone aware of other evidence of increases or decreases in vital capacity? I would be interested in learning about them.

Terry

Terry Ewell
Professor Bassoon, Towson University
Former President, IDRS
Former Principal Bassoon Hong Kong Philharmonic, Wheeling Symphony

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Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Hello.

Your pulmonary moderator's first post follows:

Terry and Bill have done an extremely thorough job addressing the vital capacity issue.
Thank you for your questions and clarifications.

Truth be known, after about the age of 35, we all start to lose a fraction of our vital capacity with every advancing year.
This is part of the normal aging process of the lung.
Not to worry, we are blessed with adequate respiratory reserve to keep us breathing comfortably for the entire length of our lives!

However, those with respiratory disorders will lose lung function at a more rapid rate.
For example, approximately 15% of smokers will be unfortunate enough to develop smoking related chronic obstructive lung disease (COPD).
These individuals who continue to smoke will usually end up with meaningful respiratory embarrassment and pulmonary disability by the 5th or 6th decade of life.  If the smoker with COPD successfully ceases to smoke, he/she will retrieve an average of only 15% of the function that they had lost - ie. they will have sustained some irreversible decrement in lung function.  However, their future rate of decline will approximate that of a similarly aged individual who had never smoked.

I may have roamed a wee bit off topic here, but I can never resist an opportunity to advocate smoking cessation!

Howard

Howard M. Lazarus, MD
Pulmonary, Sleep, & Critical Care Medicine
Portland, Oregon

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Re: Expanding Lung Capacity

Terry

I made this comment on another post, but an earlier comment about asthma readings is still a good place  to begin. In order to enlarge, you need to know where you are.  As an asthma sufferer, I fought with my doctors in the early stages of symptoms, that I was having changes, but one of the measurements is the oxygen/blood ratio, and it was always above normal. It wasn't until he realized that I had played bassoon for many years that he realized that I had a much larger air capacity than the average person so he needed to use that reading as my norm and work from there. It was easy then to see I had a problem.
Once I was diagnosed, I had to do numerous readings into a breathing meter (the long tube and a little pen draws on the paper) over a period of time with and without inhalers. Once we had a base reading, he gave me exercises that would at least help me to keep the lung capacity I had. After a short time, I noticed that I not only had gained my original form, I was finding I could go even longer. I would suggest that you talk to a pulmonary specialist or allergist and see if they have exercises that they recommend. Even if all they do is maintain what we have, it means we won't lose as we age!

Recently I went back to playing the oboe and am now in two orchestras. Since returning to playing my lchops still tire quicker than twenty years ago, but I have only used my inhaler a couple of times (damp rainy day and I was running with my oboe and English horn bags). I also notice that my singing air capacity has returned to almost normal.

Lori Putz

Bassoon/oboe player

Last edited by Lori Olson-Putz (2007-04-29 18:48:44)

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