Some interesting smoking questions have led me to ask this. I am myself a recovering tobacco addict - I stopped a few months ago. Though my health has improved vastly, I still can easily get wheezing / shortness of breath in anxious or physical situations.

Some research has led to believe I have undiagnosed asthma, which is triggered by smoking. Regardless, I want to ask if there's any forms of strengthening air intake/ lung function and what is the science behind it?

For instance, its uncontroversial that cardiovascular exercise helps. But exactly by doing what? What about breathing excercises? Diet? What else can be done?

  • I'm afraid that the part about asthma makes this question resemble those asking for personal medical advice - if you have such concerns your first stop should be your doctor. But without that part this is a general question about health.
    – Lucky
    Apr 9, 2016 at 20:45
  • Thanks for the comment - I am not asking for personal medical advice. My question is how do certain actions which enhance the respiratory system / lung function actually do so? In other words, what are the specific somatic changes that are caused by cardio or deep breathing exercises for instance? Also, what are other actions that can improve lungs / breathing (perhaps there's a dietary factor)? How do those actions do it?
    – Coma
    Apr 9, 2016 at 20:52

1 Answer 1


One of the largest differences between an exerciser and a nonexerciser concerns the heart's ability to pump blood and consequently deliver oxygen to working muscles. Cardiac output is a major limiting factor for prolonged exercise. In addition, an exerciser typically has a larger blood volume, is better able to extract oxygen from the air in the lungs and is better able to extract oxygen from the blood at the working muscles than a sedentary individual is. Gas exchange involves not only oxygen delivery but also the removal of carbon dioxide, which is a byproduct of energy metabolism, and this process is also more efficient in an exerciser.


So there doesn't appear to be any alteration of lung volumes as a result of exercise, and the improvement is to heart and muscle efficiency. And of course there are muscles associated with breathing such as intercostal muscles and the diaphragm.

There is rodent evidence of a beneficial effect of a high fiber diet on lung function, and this uncontrolled human study showed benefit in long term asthma with a plant based diet. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/4019393

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