THE average person’s lung capacity is 3.6 litres. An athlete’s is an estimated 6.5 litres and a free-diving champion’s is around eight litres.
To test your lungs you will need a regular-sized balloon and a 30cm ruler:
1. Stretch the balloon to loosen the rubber.
2. Take a deep breath and, in one go, breathe out all the air in your lungs into the balloon.
3. Hold or tie end of balloon to keep air inside.
4. Use the ruler to measure the width of the inflated balloon.
5. How does your lung capacity measure up? Here’s how the following widths relate to your capacity:
7-9cm = 0.5 litre
10-11cm = 1 litre
Less than a litre may indicate problems, especially if you’ve had symptoms such as coughing and difficulty breathing. See your GP.
12-13cm = 1.5 litres
14-16cm = 2-3 litres
Results between 1.5 and 3 litres may be normal, but if you are tall it is worth having a check-up.
17-19cm = 3-4 litres
20-22cm = 4-5 litres
Above 3 litres is a good score for people of average height and weight. Please note, results may vary depending on height, weight, age and sex.
How to bump your age down
GIVING up smoking is the best thing you can do for your lungs.
British Lung Foundation chairman Dr Keith Prowse says: “Smoking causes inflammation of the lining of the lungs, reducing their ability to clear the mucous and muck that builds up.
“This can go on to cause damage to the airways, possibly leading to emphysema, a crippling lung disorder.
“You also breathe in 20 to 30 cancer-inducing chemicals when you smoke.
“Your lungs become less effective at filtering out harmful particles, leaving them susceptible to diseases including cancer.”
If you quit before the age of about 35, your life expectancy is only slightly less than people who have never smoked.
If you stop before the age of 50, you reduce the risk of dying from smoking-related diseases by 50 per cent.
Here’s how your body benefits after . . .
. . . 72 hours – breathing becomes easier. Bronchial tubes begin to relax and energy levels increase.
. . . A month – skin appearance is better thanks to improved circulation.
. . . Three to nine months – cough, wheezing, and breathing problems improve and lung function increases by up to ten per cent.
. . . A year – the risk of a heart attack falls by about half.
. . . Ten years – risk of lung cancer is halved.
. . . 15 years – risk of heart attack falls to the level of someone who never smoked.
After quitting smoking, aerobic activity is your lungs’ next best friend.
Jogging, swimming, cycling – anything that makes you breathless – boosts oxygen supply to your muscles and improves lung function.
For more information on keeping your lungs healthy, see lunguk.org or call 08458 50 50 20.
Look out for BLF lung testing events around the country on Wednesday November 19, World COPD Day.
For support on quitting in your area call the NHS smoking cessation line on 0800 022 4332.