How Swimming Affects Lung Capacity and Stamina


Cardiovascular activities train the body to better transport and absorb oxygen. When working out, our muscles demand more oxygen to create energy. To supply it, the respiratory system must learn to pump it into the bloodstream more efficiently.

Fitness experts measure how well the lungs share oxygen with the heart and muscles using a metric called the V02 Max. This unit represents the amount of oxygen (millilitres per kilogram of body weight) distributed per minute. Research shows that just 30 minutes of aerobic activity three times a week for six months can actually raise a person’s V02 max by 15 to 20 percent. Of course, this may vary based on the sex and age of the swimmer.

Can Swimming Actually Enlarge Your Lungs?

Science tells us that exercise improves how we process oxygen, creating the illusion that our lungs can fill with more air. However, a new study suggests that swimmers might actually be able to grow bigger lungs.

All physical activity changes our physiology in some way. Bodybuilders make this apparent with their oversized muscles. For swimmers, it just so happens that most develop wider chests. Consequently, they produce more alveoli in the lungs.

Alveoli are sacs that move oxygen between the lungs and blood. More of them means more oxygen exchanged—in other words, a higher lung capacity.

Mostly, swimmers who undergo rigorous training develop these expansive chests. However, there are a few exercises that you can do to increase your own lung capacity. To learn more, consult either the Swim Outlet or Livestrong, both offer great articles on this topic.