Eli5 How do lungs get stronger?

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So I’m a runner and one of the road blocks that pops up from time to time is that my legs feel fine, but my lungs just can’t keep up with the speed. I’ve noticed after a hard run, I get a sort of cough and a bit of mucous build up like I’ve damaged my lungs in a way. Is this the same process as other muscles? Create little micro tears in muscle, body sends nutrients to site of damage, tears recover, muscle gets bigger and stronger. Or is there something else at play that makes our lungs stronger over time?

In: Biology

It sounds like you may have [exercise induced asthma](https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/exercise-induced-asthma/diagnosis-treatment/drc-20372306). This doesn’t mean you’ll have a full all asthmatic attack. Your lungs may feel like they’re chafed. I have to use an inhaler before I work out to keep it from happening.

Talk to your doctor about it.

The lungs themselves are only part of the puzzle. The purpose of lungs is to bring oxygen to your blood. So if your blood and heart gets better at carrying oxygen in larger amounts and more efficiently your lungs wont have to work as hard.

Exercise have shown to change many things about your blood such as plasma amount and number of red blood cells.

> I get a sort of cough and a bit of mucous build up like I’ve damaged my lungs in a way

Do you also have a metallic taste in your mouth? coughing up a bit of mucous doesn’t mean you damaged your lungs by excercise. But points to allergy, a cold or infection etc

Since others covered your question I will just add that according to recent studies, it’s not the micro tears that happen during exercising that make muscles bigger and stronger (hypertrophy), but the metabolic stress introduced during a workout.

mann i have the same feeling after a run too. My legs and muscles are generally fine but its my lungs that just cant take it. Sometimes after an intense workout I get this cold feeling in my lungs, which is kind of similar to the feeling you get after you brush. Hoping someone has answers here

Coughing and mucus are not, in themselves, a bad thing.

Aerosolized metabolic waste comes out of our lungs with every exhale. Also environmental toxins can enter our lungs. When you breathe deeply and exercise, this stimulates the lungs to throw off waste. That’s what mucus is for. It’s the bodyguard that escorts the waste out, hopefully without damage. Its a good sign. Ideally you want to see thicker darker blobs of mucus surrounded in lots of runny clear mucous. Think of it as a bonus inner shower. Your lungs will get stronger as they are detoxified. If possible, don’t wear a mask while exercising.

Your lungs get stronger by being challenged and having the nutrients to respond. Micro-tears can happen in the lungs but are not helpful in this case. Mostly they happen from dry air forcing through dry tissues, causing abrasion on delicate tracheal tissue. Stay hydrated, take electrolytes and your ACES. Try to bring up any mucus gently. Most important: practice deep breathing exercises such as yogic breath or wim hof breathing.

The lungs will benefit from the growth of blood vessels throughout the lungs. Tiny blood vessels around each alveoli are stimulated by exercise that puts you into a temporary oxygen debt. So push yourself hard aerobically for at least 20 secs 3× per workout. Ie: go hard until you’re gasping for breath, just for a short time, about 3 times per workout.

Human growth hormone will enhance the growth of the lungs. Your body makes hgh in response to exercise, sleep, relaxation, fasting, meditation and play.

Stay away from stress triggers on your lungs until they get stronger( cold air, high histamine food, pollution). Get an inhaler if you can’t seem to avoid it.

There are plants that can help strengthen lungs Unexpressed grief can be held in the lungs.

I hope this helps!

Your heart gets stronger, and you make new blood vessels to better collect and distribute blood to the areas that need it. High oxygen demand stimulates angiogenesis and takes place in the lungs and the muscles you’re using.

Normal mucus isn’t a sign of lung damage, but if you’re breathing harder you will dislodge mucus from areas that normal breathing won’t dislodge. Also, mucus gets thicker and stickier during exercise to better catch foreign bodies/dust/bacteria so it doesn’t get deep into your lungs. Or you might have exercise induced bronchoconstriction.

Runner here; I very rarely cough up mucus after a run. It isn’t unheard of, like if it is extremely cold outside or if I have had congestion for some reason. Running will dislodge some of that. It sounds like you may have exercise induced asthma. Your lungs aren’t muscles, they don’t get ‘strong’, the diaphram contracts and opens the air bags creating a low pressure area and the high pressure outside air is sucked in. When the diaphram relaxes, the lungs go back to their resting size, pushing the air back out again.

You are describing your VO2 Max. Which is how much oxygen your lungs and blood can deliver to your muscles.

If you run up hills more often (or HIIT exercises) you will make your lungs and heart more efficient to deliver oxygen.

Lots of smart watches can monitor your VO2 Max. I don’t know much about the phlegm problem, but that should go away with more efficient lungs and heart.

Google VO2 Max and HIIT for better info