Blowing up a balloon can do wonders for your lungs. As you age, and particularly if you have a lung condition such as pulmonary fibrosis, COPD or asthma, making sure that you have sufficient lung capacity is important. This lung exercise assists patients by allowing the lungs to expand with enough oxygen to meet the body’s needs. Blowing a balloon is an exercise you can do in your own home to improve your lung capacity. Keep in mind that your lung capacity can be affected by certain conditions such as age, gender, size, and medical conditions.
The Balloon Exercise
You can practice this simple exercise by blowing up a certain number of balloons each day. Blowing balloons works out the intercostals muscles that are responsible for spreading and elevating your diaphragm and ribcage. This allows your lungs to take in oxygen during inhalation and expel carbon dioxide as you exhale.
Blowing up balloons, while effectively exercising the lungs’ ability to expand and take in air, does not affect the size or number of alveoli contained in the lungs. Alveoli are air sacs through which oxygen and carbon dioxide exchange happens with the blood.
The Benefits of Blowing Up Balloons
The more oxygen you supply to the body during exercise, the longer you will last without becoming breathless and fatigued. Oxygen restores energy to cells and muscles by breaking down glucose and creating fuel for muscles. When plenty of oxygen is available, your muscles will equip themselves with more energy reserves that will increase your lung endurance. Committing to a daily routine of blowing up 10 or 20 balloons will steadily increase lung capacity and will also amplify the lungs’ ability to maintain a sufficient supply of oxygen over time. Start with a few a day and then build up to more.
Blowing up Balloons and your Respiratory Muscles
Blowing up balloons exercises your respiratory muscles- a group of muscles that contribute to inhalation and exhalation by aiding in the expansion and contraction of the chest. Basic respiratory muscles are the diaphragm, the internal intercostal and the external intercostal. Accessory muscles, or muscles that contribute to lifting your ribcage so that lungs can expand and take in air, are frequently used during vigorous physical activity. When you steadily blow up several balloons, it effectively exercises all these muscles, building your lung capacity and stamina.
People with healthy lungs may not have any problems blowing up balloons. However, people with impaired lung function and capacity, such as those with pulmonary fibrosis may feel lightheaded or dizzy while blowing balloons. This effect will likely go away once you stop blowing. As your lung capacity increases, these sensations should reduce and may eventually disappear.
Here’s a link if you’d like to try out another breathing exercise: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/learn/exercise-your-lungs-2/
Here are some breathing challenges for you to try: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/challenge/
Many people who enjoy breathing exercises, also find meditation helpful: https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/2021/04/26/guided-meditations-to-help-with-pain/
To connect with people in the PF NOW! community: join our online forum, and attend our virtual support groups on Zoom.
Audrey LewisPosted on July 26, 2020 at 10:07 am
I have been blowing up balloons when my asthma is quite bad and I feel unable to take a deep breath in. It works a treat at the time but only lasts an hour or so. After reading this I will definitely be blowing balloons regularly as when out walking Anny hills defeat me..
PF NOWPosted on July 28, 2020 at 7:25 pm
Hello Audrey, we are glad that our blog has motivated you to do something that will exercise your muscles involved in breathing and hopefully improve your endurance!
Prasadarao ChenjiPosted on July 26, 2020 at 3:53 pm
simple exercise by purchasing balloons and blowing,it is a fun also
PF NOWPosted on July 28, 2020 at 7:26 pm
Hello Prasad, it sure is simple and definitely fun! 🙂
LitaPosted on July 29, 2020 at 6:32 am
This information is very helpful, thank you. My question is does it matter what type of balloons and can you reuse the same ones over and over again? I would like to learn more about it.
PF NOWPosted on July 31, 2020 at 9:21 pm
Hi Lita, I’m glad you found this information useful. You can reuse the balloons – you can blow the balloon, let the air out and then blow the same balloon again. It does not really matter what type of balloon, but you can try two or three different types and start with the ones that are easier to blow to begin with and then as you build strength, progress to the other varieties.
Mark SmithPosted on August 20, 2020 at 12:02 am
I have COPD will blowing up balloons help. I want to start this every day
PF NOWPosted on August 21, 2020 at 3:00 am
Hello Mark, blowing up balloons will help strengthen your muscles involved in breathing including your diaphragm which will help you breathe better. COPD patients say that it also helps them get the trapped carbon dioxide out. Some people who regularly do this recommend buying 12 inch balloons. You can do it a few times a day as you feel comfortable. I would also advise you to check your oxygen levels if you have a pulse oximeter and stop if you are feeling faint. You can slowly increase the number and frequency as you gain strength. I am not sure how severe your COPD is, it may be a good idea for you to give your physician a call and ask him if this is okay for you to do.
ShelleyPosted on October 27, 2020 at 3:28 am
Does his help with shortness of breath? I can’t even walk 15 feet to the bathroom without getting short of breath. Thanks for any advice.
PF NOWPosted on October 30, 2020 at 8:11 pm
Hello Shelley, This and other breathing exercises (https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/learn/exercise-your-lungs-2/#excercise) will surely help with shortness of breath. These exercises done regularly and consistently help strengthen the muscles involved in breathing and help you breathe better. You may also want to ask your doctor to refer you to a pulmonary rehabilitation program that can help improve your overall conditioning and help reduce your symptoms.
AimeePosted on December 19, 2020 at 6:09 pm
Trying to recover from Covid and I can’t take a deep breath. PF runs in my family as well, so the inability to breathe deeply is concerning. After reading this, I’m committing to blowing balloons every day for lung health. Thank you for posting this!
PF NOWPosted on December 21, 2020 at 5:37 pm
Hello Aimee, it’s great to hear that you have committed to take this step to improve your lung health. Wish you a speedy recovery. Please let us know if you need any other information. We are here to support you. We also have a private facebook group which includes people with pulmonary fibrosis or family members that share information and discuss relevant topics and get support and help from each other. If you’d like, here is the link to join: https://www.facebook.com/groups/1198991686930106/?ref=bookmarks
JohnPosted on December 22, 2020 at 4:32 pm
Would blowing balloons in microgravity increase lung capacity?
PF NOWPosted on December 22, 2020 at 6:28 pm
Blowing balloons strengthens the muscles involved in breathing and I don’t believe that would change with gravity. As per research, changes in gravity do not result in lasting changes in lung function and the lung continues to function well in weightlessness. Additionally, the lung does not appear to undergo changes in structure when gravity is removed. I am curious as to the context of your question.
carolynPosted on February 21, 2021 at 12:11 am
i also am blowing up balloons daily its so great amazing in fact i dont have any problems blowing them up…i have stage 2
emphysema so i dont get shortness of breathe at this stage…will balloon blowing help in the future
PF NOWPosted on February 22, 2021 at 5:12 am
Hi Carolyn, blowing balloons and other breathing exercises (https://pulmonaryfibrosisnow.org/learn/exercise-your-lungs-2/#excercise) will surely help in the future as well. These exercises done regularly and consistently help strengthen the muscles involved in breathing and help you breathe better and preserve your lung function as much as possible.