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Low lung capacity?!

Cornish-JCornish-J Posts: 978
edited February 2012 in Training, fitness and health
As part of work, we've had a free health test, only a small 10min thing but found something a bit interesting/concerning...

My lung function test (FEV i think it was called) came out at 71% percent which is apparently 'mild obstruction' .. this is a bit baffling considering the following..

im 26, never smoked, my resting hr was low 50's, 9% body fat, good blood pressure etc etc i.e. generally pretty healthy and no health issues at all such as asthma. Done TT's for the past 18months, 25 - 10 and 1.03 - 25....so not amazing but certainly not terrible.

I've just bought a powerbreathe ironman device which should help to improve but i cant understand why it's so low?
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  • danowatdanowat Posts: 2,877
    A genetic thing?, something you were born with?
  • Cornish-JCornish-J Posts: 978
    could well be - none of my immediate family suffer with anything lung related though, no smokers etc...
  • I hate those kinds of tests carried in 10 minutes by people who generally don't know what they're talking about.
    If you're worried about your lung function go and see your GP. They'll carry out a similar test, know what the results mean and if they think there's something to worry about will send you for an x-ray or scan.
    There's warp speed - then there's Storck Speed
  • Cornish-JCornish-J Posts: 978
    Yea i think that's going to be the only way to find out for sure.

    to be fair, he was good and did seem to know his stuff but i know what you're saying though.
  • Tom MTom M Posts: 37
    Was it properly explained you should try and blow out as hard and fast as possible?

    The FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) is generally expressed as a percentage of your total voluntary lung capacity (FVC - forced vital capacity). Anything less than about 80-85% is thought of as restricted (though not sure on clinical guidelines).

    Bascially, you should be able to get out most of your breath in the first second of a maximal expiration. If you have a restrictive airway condition such as asthma then this will narrow the airways, and so although the total amount expired will be the same, the rate will be slower, so therefore FEV1 will be a lower percentage of FVC.

    If no obvious conditions like asthma it can be people just don't try hard or fast enough if it isn't explained properly. Also colds etc can affect this figure.
  • Kinda on topic what is the average lung capacity?? I know obviously larger = better, like hutch's 8.5 litres!! But anyone know what average would be considered as??
  • Average male is usually around 6 litres, but it's not a major limiter to performance. Go to the GP if you're concerned.
    "A cyclist has nothing to lose but his chain"

    PTP Runner Up 2015
  • Cornish-JCornish-J Posts: 978
    Tom M wrote:
    Was it properly explained you should try and blow out as hard and fast as possible?

    The FEV1 (forced expiratory volume in 1 second) is generally expressed as a percentage of your total voluntary lung capacity (FVC - forced vital capacity). Anything less than about 80-85% is thought of as restricted (though not sure on clinical guidelines).

    Bascially, you should be able to get out most of your breath in the first second of a maximal expiration. If you have a restrictive airway condition such as asthma then this will narrow the airways, and so although the total amount expired will be the same, the rate will be slower, so therefore FEV1 will be a lower percentage of FVC.

    If no obvious conditions like asthma it can be people just don't try hard or fast enough if it isn't explained properly. Also colds etc can affect this figure.

    Hi Tom,

    thanks for the reply, actually no, it wasnt explained that i should breathe out as fast as possible, i wonder now thinking back .. did i treat it as a breathaliser type test and do more of a slow obvious exhale.

    I'm going to the GP anyway but it's quite possible that i balls'd the test up!
  • cougiecougie Posts: 22,512
    I've had a similar test and even after 20 years of cycling - my lung capacity was below average.
    I put it down to bouts of bronchitis as a kid.

    I can't say it's affected me at all. I'd really not worry.
  • it's not a major limiter to performance.
    Take note of this.
  • rick_chaseyrick_chasey Posts: 57,280 Lives Here
    it's not a major limiter to performance.
    Take note of this.

    Seems counter-intuitive.

    Why isn't it?
  • it's not a major limiter to performance.
    Take note of this.

    Seems counter-intuitive.

    Why isn't it?
    Have a read of the powerbreathe thread.
  • it's not a major limiter to performance.
    Take note of this.

    Seems counter-intuitive.

    Why isn't it?

    Depends how much Oxygen you can use as opposed to how much you can take in.
    "A cyclist has nothing to lose but his chain"

    PTP Runner Up 2015
  • Just bought a powerbreathe ironman - also booked in for a fev1 retest today.
  • PseudonymPseudonym Posts: 1,032
    Cornish-J wrote:
    Just bought a powerbreathe ironman - also booked in for a fev1 retest today.

    didn't read the powerbreathe thread then..?
  • No i didnt - seems to be some scientific evidence that shows it does improve performance though.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Oh no there isn't! (has panto season finished?)
  • had the retest - blew 79%, so much better than last time but still lower than 'normal'

    the doctor said that a tall, slim person (like me) will generally blow lower anyway due to their shape, so bottom line, nothing to worry about and perfectly normal.

    Going to give the power breathe thing 8 weeks and then go for a retest again, see if it has made any difference.
  • keef66keef66 Posts: 13,123
    Whereas a shortarse like me returns a 130% figure.

    Handy for blowing up balloons quickly, but censored all use on a bike!
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,430
    Cornish-J wrote:
    had the retest - blew 79%, so much better than last time but still lower than 'normal'

    the doctor said that a tall, slim person (like me) will generally blow lower anyway due to their shape, so bottom line, nothing to worry about and perfectly normal.

    Going to give the power breathe thing 8 weeks and then go for a retest again, see if it has made any difference.
    Interesting - I also had one of those tests about 10 years ago when I was about 34 and had a similar result. I was a bit miffed as I thought I was pretty fit at the time (although I'm fitter now). Never got an explanation, although the person doing the test seemed a little vague, and like you I'm also skinny. I've certainly not had any problems since, so I guess it's just a rubbish test.. :wink:
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,430
    I also remember thinking at the time that there was something very artificial about trying to blow out to test the lungs when in that sort of rested state, and that I'd probably have done a lot better if the whole cardiovascular system had been properly warmed up first.
  • i recently did a test blowing into a tube thingy and got 630. what the hell is 630, and whats it telling me???
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,430
    Incidentally it occurs to me that if the test is as explained by Tom M on the last page, then it doesn't have much to do with lung capacity. In fact, if you had a stupendously large capacity, wouldn't you be liable to get quite a low score on that test because the percentage of that you could blow out in 1 second would be limited by the diameter of your airways? And might you not correspondingly get a good score if you had a low lung capacity, because you wouldn't need to expel much in 1 sec to have expelled a high percentage of the total? Or have I misunderstood?
  • i recently did a test blowing into a tube thingy and got 630. what the hell is 630, and whats it telling me???

    Sounds like you measured your peak expiratory flow rate, i.e. the fastest air flow you can produce when breathing out. It's measured in litres/min and 630 is normal unless you're really short when it's fantastic or ridiculously (8 foot plus) when it would be a bit down.

    The important thing to remember about this and the FEV1/FVC ratio is they are clinical tests designed to assess respiratory disease and treatment. They have little to do with exercise and nothing to do with fitness.

    They are also useless screening tools.
  • ddmrcpddmrcp Posts: 23
    You have had what is called basic spirometry. You try and blow out as forcefully as possible and keep going for at least 6 seconds but most people can manage to keep going for 12 seconds.
    Theres a lot of factors that can confound the interpretation of the test, which are your technique (mainly) the type of spirometer used, and reference values. It should be clear that none of these confounding factors are spoiling the test.
    Your % value is based on your 1.race 2.height and 3.age and 4.Sex.
    And there is usually a range of upper and lower reference values for when you input values in the 4 fields above.
    You need to have a more detailed discussion with your GP about the results and should not fob you off cause you are an athlete.
    The only reason i say this is cause your values are just at the lower limit of your range (if FEV1 80% or below then MAY point to lung problems, but also does not mean anything in the absence of any symptoms of lung disease (usually coughing, wheezing etc)
    I doubt the powerbreathe will do anything to change your values if your technique etc is correct.
    Hope this helps, good luck
  • most people can forcefully blow out for 12 seconds?! that's an eternity, even 6 seconds sounds like a long time!
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,430
    Cornish-J wrote:
    most people can forcefully blow out for 12 seconds?! that's an eternity, even 6 seconds sounds like a long time!
    Yeah, I can't do that either, I can barely manage 5 seconds. And yet I can still climb for an hour at more than 4W/kg. I don't get it!
  • neeb wrote:
    Cornish-J wrote:
    most people can forcefully blow out for 12 seconds?! that's an eternity, even 6 seconds sounds like a long time!
    Yeah, I can't do that either, I can barely manage 5 seconds. And yet I can still climb for an hour at more than 4W/kg. I don't get it!
    Because it's not a performance limiter (unless you have a pulmonary disorder/disease).
  • neebneeb Posts: 4,430
    I'm curious about what it means about my physiology though - if most people who don't do any exercise / training at all can blow out forcefully for 12 seconds and I can only do it for about 6 seconds, what do they have that I don't, and why isn't it a performance limiter? It's a bit counter intuitive. It would seem pretty obvious that if you can't blow out forcefully for as long that you must either 1) have lower lung capacity, 2) aren't expelling all of the air in your lungs when you blow, or 3) are expelling air at a faster rate.
  • agree ^

    i've given up trying to get my head around it lol
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