05 Jun Lung Capacity and Longevity linked
Is there a correlation between how long you live and lung capacity?
According to the American Lung Association our lung capacity begins to reduce after the age of 35 years of age. Until the age of 25 years of age our lungs are still developing. Did you know that we have the ability to hold up to 6 litres of air in our lungs. That would be 3 large soda bottles!
After the age of 35, there is supposed to be a gradual yearly decline.There are similar statistical numbers around bone density plateauing around 30 years of age and steadily decreasing.
Regarding lung capacity, a 29 year study at the University of Buffalo showed that pulmonary function was a long term predictor of overall survival rates. Apart from disease and typical lung damaging risk factors, what is going on to affect the ability to breathe???
A list of declining functions include: weakening of the diaphragm muscles, poor rib movement, reduced overall flexibility, poor posture, and reduced elasticity of lung tissue.
The good news is that this is partially reversible. It’s sort of a “use it or lose it” scenario. I recently watched a video of Jane Fonda talking about aging. The 2 things she credited herself to having as an 80+ woman is a healthy active lifestyle and good posture!
Movement and postural forces have a big impact on breathing! Many studies put exercise on the top of the list for improving our odds of survival. Exercise forces the lungs to fill more, the diaphragm to contract more strongly then when at rest, and the ribs to move through a greater range.
However, studies on lung capacity have also made me wonder more. How do I breathe at rest? Do I use all of my lung tissue or am I partially using my lungs while at rest? Do I position myself optimally for breathing? Most of my day involves smaller, less lung demanding movements, so it makes sense to me to improve my resting breath first, since dedicated exercise times are far less frequent.
Could I do fun and playful movements to challenge my ribs, diaphragm and lung tissue? Ask any Feldenkrais Practitioner™ and the answer is a resounding YES.
How can we expand lung ability without effort? When we increase our inhale can it be done without extraneous effort in our back, shoulders or neck? Could it simply feel like a balloon filling inside? It might feel like moving from the inside first, rather than from exterior muscles.
I know from personal experience, increasing my lung volume doesn’t have to involve strain, taking a light breath doesn’t have to mean shallow breathing, and I can find more nooks and crannies inside myself to make room for my lungs, and simply by adjusting my head position I can make a huge difference in making breathing easier.