How To Measure Your Lung Capacity In 9 Easy Steps

by sheltron on 1 October 2009

  1. Take the deepest breath you can
  2. Inflate a balloon with a single breath (if you have already completed step 1 and haven’t got a balloon yet, release your breath, go and buy one, and repeat step 1)
  3. Tie it off
  4. Get a large, deep oven tray and put it on the floor
  5. Fill an empty bucket and put it in the centre of the oven tray
  6. Top up the bucket of water with extra water until it is full to the very top (don’t let any slosh into the oven tray)
  7. Gently dunk your balloon in the water. The water will start pouring out of the bucket and into the oven tray. Fully submerge the balloon (try not to slosh extra water out of the bucket when doing so)
  8. Take the balloon and bucket away
  9. Either:
    • Poor the water from the oven tray into a measuring jug, or
    • Weigh the oven tray with the water in it, empty the oven tray and weigh it, the difference in weight is your lung capacity in litres (because 1 litre of water weighs exactly 1 kg)

How many litres of water did you collect? That is your lung capacity.

Why would you want to do this?

I don’t know.

Seems like a lot of work for just a number to brag to your friends about…

{ 20 comments… read them below or add one }

Nate Edelson December 10, 2009 at 2:19 pm

AWESOME idea!
Nice Job on bringing this idea to the public eye.

As for reason to measure?
I plan on doing this for my kids yearly as an incentive to stay away from smoking. Just the thought of losing what you’ve achieved,…

It will also serve as a reference for my own lung function loss as I continue live near smoke (Smog, whatever) excersize less and age,….

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sheltron December 10, 2009 at 2:27 pm

Cool! Thanks for your comment Nate

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nrolad March 8, 2010 at 5:06 am

i have a question, if i do this procedure between a non smoker and a smoker, who are both around 20 to 23 old, would there be really much difference when it comes to the results?

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sheltron March 8, 2010 at 6:20 am

I’m not a doctor but I suspect the smokers ability to retain oxygen is diminished. That would be a good experiment, let me know the results.

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Bruno April 17, 2010 at 3:16 pm

Thanks a lot man, i have searched this in hours, and i’ve finally found it… it’s from a chemistry proejct, greetings from Mexico

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James October 11, 2010 at 5:13 am

wouldn’t the water pressure compress the air in the balloon and make your lung capacity seem smaller?

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Tom August 9, 2012 at 1:35 am

no, air is incompressible at that pressure so would have negligible effect. You could also do it by releasing the air from the ballon into an upside down measuring jug submersed under water and this would tell you the volume! That Archimedes chap was a smart cookie…

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sheltron October 11, 2010 at 12:48 pm

hmmm damn good point James

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jesse gould March 6, 2012 at 10:51 am

this is a great idea thanks for posting this… why i need this?its for my 7 grade science project!!!!!!!! ill report and give you the credit

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sheltron March 6, 2012 at 11:38 am

All the best with that Jesse :)

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Jack dorrian July 22, 2012 at 6:58 am

I smoked all my life I am now 71years old and suffer bronchitis yearly.
I have two grandsons who smoke and want them to pack them in, I read in a national newspaper about top cyclists who have large lung capacity of 8 litres . The average man is about 6 litres. I thought if I can work on a experiment with them it may help to make them pack them in.

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sheltron July 23, 2012 at 1:06 pm

Wow! I hope your visual demonstration makes an impact on them. All the best!

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Callne November 8, 2012 at 4:32 pm

Hey guys…you can find volume another way. Measure the balloon’s diameter and use that to calculate volume. As long as your not using an ovular balloon, (or you blow it up too much) it will work.

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sheltron November 13, 2012 at 6:21 am

Thanks Callne. So what is the formula for calculating the volume of a sphere?

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Anish December 10, 2012 at 11:13 am

Hey Jesse im in 5th grade and i have same project :D isnt that wierd?

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amanda February 19, 2013 at 11:31 am

This just saved my science grade :)

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sheltron February 20, 2013 at 4:00 pm

haha, cool, glad to help Amanda :)

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Iceman May 31, 2013 at 12:54 am

Why would a person wanna do this? Not just for bragging. How about athletes? This is actually a very helpful piece of knowledge for those who want to improve athletic performance.

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Blob June 28, 2013 at 3:15 pm

Well I just got my lungs x rayed and they are so big that if they got any bigger my hart could get crushed or my liver, stomach, large intestine, and kidneys alone with it

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Blob June 28, 2013 at 3:16 pm

Ps I’m only 14

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