3 ways running makes your lungs work better

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Chances are when you started running you found yourself out of breath, but over time it became easier to sync your breathing with your footfall. This is because your lungs learn how to deliver more oxygen to the bloodstream quicker, as well as becoming more efficient at ridding the body of the waste product carbon dioxide (CO2).

‘When you run, oxygenated air collects in sacs in the lungs called alveoli,’ says Rebecca Christenson, sports physiotherapist at Pure Sports Medicine. ‘Through a process called diffusion, the oxygen from the air is transferred to the capillaries, which then transport the oxygenated blood around the rest of the body to your muscles,’ she adds. ‘At the same time, CO2 is transferred from your blood to the alveoli to be expelled into the air when you exhale. Your lungs become more efficient at getting more oxygen to your muscles not only by better processing the amount you take in during each breath, but also by increasing your respiration rate – that’s why you breathe quicker when you run.’ When you’re at rest your ventilation rate – the amount of air inhaled – may be 10 litres per minute, but could go up to 100 litres per minute when you’re running hard. ‘Over time you can increase this figure further and process up to 200 litres per minute if you become a highly trained athlete,’ says Christenson.

What happens to my lungs when I run?

1. The endurance capacity of your respiratory muscles – including the diaphragm and intercostal muscles – increases, allowing deeper, fuller and more efficient breaths when you run.

2. With regular training you grow more capillaries, which means you can get more oxygen to your muscles quicker.

3. The more you run, the more alveoli you grow. These take oxygen and transport it into the capillaries.