The Fitness Fixer
The Fitness Fixer

Lung Training from the Exercise Ball

The week before I left to teach at the Wilderness conference, I taught my University yoga class entirely on an exercise ball. I will post about functional movement on a ball in weeks to come.

We don't use three of the most ineffective things you can do on a ball - crunches, sitting on the ball (for almost anything), and arching the lower back over the ball. These seem to be three of the more common things done on the ball in fitness classes, but they are not fit or effective.

Another myth is that an exercise ball will magically make you sit straight. You can sit with as faulty positioning as on any other surface.

Most of my students brought in an owned or borrowed exercise ball. I brought in three more for students without access. Some of the students pin-balled cheerfully through the narrow doorway with a large inflated exercise ball. One came in on the subway holding hers. I managed a comic, calorie-burning commute with three on a bicycle. A few students brought theirs uninflated. Wow, such an idea.

They asked me if I had a pump.

I told them, "Yes, your lungs, blow it up."

They sat politely waiting for the other students who brought a pump to finish with theirs.

I chided them that people talk all about yoga and breathing but here was opportunity in the tangible. They sat politely waiting for the pump. I demonstrated - "fffooooooooou."

I told them that when I was small, I was transfixed when my father, a Russian ice swimmer, blew up a beach ball in one breath. I decided then and there that I wanted to do that. I experimented with bags. I'd inflate to all my capacity and compare the bag to my little chest. I later practiced this in my swimming career until I was measured by scientists who came one day to test our whole team. My lung volume (not counting residual that you cannot breathe out) came in close to 6 liters. They called me a sports car. I didn't know what that was and hoped they were not flunking me. Who knows how much was from my 35 to 40 mile a week swimming training, or inherited, or just lung size relative to height. Still, a "big engine" can be trained and added to the mix. Click the label "breathing" under this post for entries about training breathing and exercise capacity.

My students took a chance on believing me that breathing and yoga and health had something to do with real life, and took a big breath to the ball. Bigger, bigger, full. Then quick hands to cap it off. They laughed. Laughing is good for breathing too. Then we started class.

  • Take a nice full breath in right now. Let your lower abdomen come outward. Exhale normally.
  • Breathe when you cook, clean, and do daily life. Don't hold your breath or gasp.
  • Blow up balloons, pool floats, air cushions, enormous inflatable beach toys. Don't overbreathe and get dizzy.
  • Exercise until you have to breathe a lot. Don't let yourself get so out of shape that it ever becomes unhealthy to try fun exercise.
  • Sing.
  • Laugh.


I make posts from fun mail and success stories. Before asking questions, see if your answers are already here - click labels under posts, links in posts, archives at right, and the Fitness Fixer Index. Why not try fun stuff, then contribute! Read success stories of these methods and send your own.
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Photo - from the world's strongest lungs competition
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About the Author


Dr. Bookspan is an award-winning scientist whose goal is to make exercise easier and healthier.