When you run, two of the important organs of the body come into action: the heart and the lungs.
The lungs bring oxygen into the body, to provide energy, and remove carbon dioxide, the waste product created when you produce energy. The heart pumps the oxygen to the muscles that are doing the exercise.
Long-distance running seems to have everything to do with big and strong lungs. But, why are the best runners in the world are quite small people, with characteristically small lungs? Do your lungs limit your ability to run?
Lung capacity is like aerobic capacity. It plays a crucial role in determining how long you can performan and run continuously, and without decent aerobic capacity you would never get that far without having to stop to walk.
When you run and your muscles work harder, your body uses more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. Generally, the average adult lung capacity is 6 liters – a little over 1.5 gallons. So at rest, a normal breath takes only half a liter. When exercising, a breath is 2.5-4 liters each.
When you’re active, your breathing can increase up to about 40-60 times a minute to cope with the extra demand. The delivery of oxygen to your muscles also speeds up, so they can do their job efficiently. The increase in your breathing also makes sure there’s no build-up of carbon dioxide in your bloodstream.
Your lung capacity is not a limiting factor in your running performance. What matters is the ability to transport and utilize oxygen.