Training can have positive effects on your respiratory system depending on the type of exercises you perform. Aerobic activities such as running, swimming, cycling and other endurance sports can be the most beneficial because they immediately engage your lungs and require more oxygen than anaerobic activities such as weight training.
Certain types of training -- such as swimming intervals -- can improve your lung capacity. For example, breathing every third, fifth or seventh stroke for short distances can help improve your overall performance. By taxing your lungs and forcing them to work harder, you can steadily increase your lung capacity.
As you increase your training and exert more energy, you also increase your oxygen consumption. At a certain point, your oxygen consumption plateaus and levels off. This point is known as your VO2 max, or maximum aerobic capacity. Phil Davies, a certified strength and conditioning specialist who writes for the Sports Fitness Advisor site, notes that you can increase your VO2 max by training at 75 percent aerobic power for 30 minutes three times each week.
The Plus and Minus of Immune-System Effects
Training may have both a positive and negative affect on your body’s immunity. Overtraining can weaken your immune system, which could result in a respiratory infection or cold. Moderate daily exercise, however, may help your body produce and circulate additional bacteria-fighting cells. In addition, routine training reduces stress, which slows your breathing and brings more oxygen into your system.
Chronic Respiratory Illnesses
Although patients with chronic respiratory illnesses such as asthma should take necessary precautions, they can still benefit from healthy training exercises. If you suffer from exercise-induced asthma, make sure your medication is close by, take a few extra minutes to warm up and cool down, avoid dry air, stay in your target heart range and listen to your body to rest as needed. Consult with your doctor before starting any new training regimen.
- American Council on Exercise: Exercise and Asthma
- American Council on Exercise: Fit Facts: Can Exercise Reduce Your Risk of Catching a Cold?
- Sports Fitness Advisor: VO2 Max, Aerobic Power & Maximal Oxygen Uptake; Phil Davies
- The New York Times Health Guide: Exercise’s Effects on the Lungs
- Triathlete: Training: Designing the Perfect Swim Workout