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In the past month we have added over 6 new video animations on our website in the hand anatomy section.  Click here to view the new videos.

We have also added a number of new articles including the following resource guides:

In this newsletter, our featured article is about improving your lung function. 

The Importance of Optimal Lung Function, and Tips to Improve Yours

As you sit reading this, you will breathe about 12 times in the next minute. That means you'll breathe, on average, 720 times in the next hour, 17,280 times in the next day and 6,307,200 in the next year – all without really thinking about it. That makes breathing perhaps the most effortless, yet vital, act we do to sustain our lives.

A continuous supply of oxygen is necessary to fuel our energy production systems and remove wastes (mainly carbon dioxide) from our bodies. It's no wonder then that our bodies can only sustain themselves for 4 to 6 minutes without oxygen before the brain will become permanently damaged.  Even more remarkable is the fact that lung volume is the best predictor of our future health and longevity. According to both the Framingham Heart Study and the Buffalo Health Study, those with higher lung capacity were healthier and lived longer than those with impaired lung capacity [1,2].

The good news is, no matter how well your lungs are currently functioning, lung capacity and other measures of lung health can be retained and even restored by making a few simple changes in your life and routine.

Here are your Physical Therapist's top five tips for improving lung function.

Stop smoking and avoid second-hand smoke.

The chemicals found in cigarette smoke literally destroy lung tissue, negatively affecting nearly every measurable aspect of lung function [3-5]. For example, a 60-year-old man who has smoked a pack a day for 35 years would have the same lung function as a man nearly a decade older who never smoked [6]. However, this damage can be stopped and even reversed by quitting [6,7].

Reach and maintain an ideal weight.

Obesity can restrict how much the rib cage can expand, significantly reducing lung capacity. When oxygen levels are too low and carbon dioxide levels are too high, serious health problems can result. However, researchers have found that losing weight helps improve virtually every measurement of lung function [8-10].

Exercise regularly.

When you exercise on a regular basis, you are training your lungs to take in more oxygen. Highly aerobic activities such as swimming, cycling and running have been shown to significantly improve both lung capacity and lung function [11,12].

Practice taking deep breaths.

Just like any other muscle, the muscles in your respiratory system get stronger the more you use them. In one study, a group of healthy volunteers increased their lung capacity by an average of 200 ml by breathing as deeply as they possibly could and then holding it for 10 seconds 20 times every day for six weeks [13].

Take up yoga, singing or any other activity that focuses on breathing.

The deep breathing practiced during yoga promotes the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide and has been shown to improve lung function in people with lung disease [14]. Singing has also been shown to help preserve lung function in people with lung disease [15].

Maintain good posture. 

Slouching limits the ability of the lower rib cage to expand thereby restricting the base of the lungs from filling fully with air. This can lead to an apical (upper chest) breathing pattern which is less efficient and doesn’t maximize the use of the available lung capacity. This is significant if you consider the amount of time many of us spend sitting down during activities such as driving, desk work, sitting in a classroom, using a home computer, or watching TV.

For more tips on how to safely and effectively improve your lung function, talk to the trained, licensed Physical Therapists at Stellar Physical Therapy. One of our Physical Therapists would be happy to assess your current lung function and create a program tailored specifically to your needs and goals. Call Stellar Physical Therapy to make an appointment or to ask any questions you may have.


  • Kannel WB, Hubert H. National Institute of Aging meeting. Science News. 1981;120:74.
  • Schünemann HJ, Dorn J, Grant BJ, Winkelstein W Jr, Trevisan M. Pulmonary function is a long-term predictor of mortality in the general population: 29-year follow-up of the Buffalo Health Study. Chest. 2000;118(3):656-64.
  • Twisk JW, Staal BJ, Brinkman MN, Kemper HC, van Mechelen W. Tracking of lung function parameters and the longitudinal relationship with lifestyle. Eur Respir J. 1998;12(3):627-34.
  • Yang SC. Relationship between smoking habits and lung function changes with conventional spirometry. J Formos Med Assoc. 1993;92(Suppl 4):S225-31.
  • Beck GJ, Doyle CA, Schachter EN. Smoking and lung function. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1981;123(2):149-55.
  • Dockery DW, Speizer FE, Ferris BG Jr, Ware JH, Louis TA, Spiro A 3rd. Cumulative and reversible effects of lifetime smoking on simple tests of lung function in adults. Am Rev Respir Dis. 1988;137(2):286-92.
  • Broekema M, ten Hacken NH, Volbeda F, et al. Airway epithelial changes in smokers but not in ex-smokers with asthma. Am J Respir Crit Care Med. 2009;180(12):1170-8.
  • Womack CJ, Harris DL, Katzel LI, Hagberg JM, Bleecker ER, Goldberg AP. Weight loss, not aerobic exercise, improves pulmonary function in older obese men. J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 2000;55(8):M453-7.
  • De Lorenzo A, Petrone-De Luca P, Sasso GF, Carbonelli MG, Rossi P, Brancati A. Effects of weight loss on body composition and pulmonary function. Respiration. 1999;66(5):407-12.
  • Hakala K, Stenius-Aarniala B, Sovijärvi A. Effects of Weight Loss on Peak Flow Variability, Airways Obstruction, and Lung Volumes in Obese Patients With Asthma. Chest. 2000;118(5):1315-21.
  • Farid R, Azad FJ, Atri AE, et al. Effect of aerobic exercise training on pulmonary function and tolerance of activity in asthmatic patients. Iran J Allergy Asthma Immunol. 2005;4(3):133-8.
  • Azad A, Gharakhanlou R, Niknam A, Ghanbari A. Effects of Aerobic Exercise on Lung Function in Overweight and Obese Students. Tanaffos. 2011;10(3):24-31.
  • Fanta CH, Leith DE, Brown R. Maximal shortening of inspiratory muscles: effect of training. J Appl Physiol. 1983;54(6):1618-23.
  • Pomidori L, Campigotto F, Amatya TM, Bernardi L, Cogo A. Efficacy and Tolerability of Yoga Breathing in Patients With Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease: A PILOT STUDY. J Cardiopulm Rehab Prev. 2009;29(2):133-7.
  • Bonilha AG, Onofre F, Vieira ML, Prado MYA, Martinez JAB. Effects of singing classes on pulmonary function and quality of life of COPD patients. Int J Chron Obstruct Pulmon Dis. 2009;4:1-8.
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