Lung Age - Spirometry asthma test

Hey,

I had a recent asthma checkup where I was given a spirometry test. I blew into a device connected to a computer which measured the amount and speed of air I could expel from my lungs (peak expiatory flow). The nurse said my lung age was 55, but I’m 39. I was right at the bottom of the average range.

I have been off my bike for the last two years because I’ve got two young children. I’m at the beginning of a return to fitness using Trainer Road and the very occasional outdoor ride. Before the kids came along, I’d cycle ten to fifteen hours a week and I’d always assumed I had a good cycling physiology as I could beat my club mates up most hills and in the sprint back home.

Do you think lung age/lung capacity decreases/increases dramatically with fitness? Has anyone had spirometry test results improve markedly after getting fit? It was all a bit depressing to be told it was 15 years above my chronological age. My BPM was around 40 BPM when I was fit, so could that compensate for smaller lung capacity?

Thanks
James

I have a spirometry test in an hour! Mine is because I am convinced that I no longer have asthma. My chest problems came about when I got a lot of chest infections, at that time I wasn’t really looking after myself properly, in the form of poor diet and drinking too much. I gave up drinking 4.5 years ago , got down to structured training again and have seen constant improvement since.

My fitness has plateaued a bit now, but that is to be expected as I can’t really see how I could go on improving infinitely. I’d expect you to see improvements as you get back into it, probably quite rapid at first and then leveling off as you reach a peak.

When I was diagnosed the consultant said my lungs had the capacity of a 70+ year old, I now haven’t had my inhalers for months (asthma nurse isn’t happy) raced TT’s last year and even won a little (very little) bit of prize money. So stick at it, it’ll be hard at first, put what you used to do out of your mind and take it one workout at a time. Good luck.

I get one every year at work. I hate that test. Last time, I had a very nice cold going and still matched the expected curve.

Take things with a grain of salt. Kind of like that BMI “skinny fat”.

Who cares if your lungs are 15 years older if you can get back to ripping the legs off those 15 year younger?

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I had a spirometry a couple of weeks ago, investigating asthma. I’m 32 and had results above a 20 cm taller 20 year old male.
There’s nothing wrong with my lungs or airways. My breathing technique at threshold and above is horrible - shallow hyperventilation, affecting my vocal chords. Deep “belly breathing” solved my issues.

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That’s great news. Well done on the TT win. It would be interesting to know if the spirometry test shows a huge improvement. When I’ve returned to fitness in the past, it’s been the lungs that hurt to begin with as much as the legs. Reading up about it, you can improve lung capacity by up to 15% with aerobic exercise, but you can’t increase lung function. I think the spirometer tests capacity, so I’ll see if I can get a check up in a year’s time and a lower lung age. I think it’s commuting through central London is the main cause of my asthma.

Had a good test, lung function above average across the board. I used to work along a main rd, the past 18 months I now work in a more rural area, think that has been beneficial. Nurse who did the test today is going to speak to a colleague but it looks like I could get the all clear. So I’d expect that you’ll see improvements as well, hopefully.

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Great stuff. Excellent to hear. I moved out of London for cleaner air for the kids, but I’m still commuting in for work. In three years they’re charging the most polluting cars from entering, so things should get better. Hope the doc gives you the all clear.

Hi James,
I’ve been practicing pulmonary medicine (respirology if you are on the east side of the pond) for 7 years now and have never understood why anyone would ever tell a patient their lung age. I had never even heard of lung age until after I finished 11 years of medical training. There are many conditions that can cause the spirometry values to drop but have nothing to do with the health of the lung tissue itself. Obesity and neuromuscular weakness are chief among these in the West. The test itself is a bit finicky to perform so should only be performed by someone well trained and experienced on a recently calibrated machine. In my experience this does not always happen.

Spirometry is a good test for evaluation of COPD. It is an OK asthma test (you can have a normal spirometry test and still have asthma).

When assessing lung health there are lots of things to consider (symptoms, smoking/occupational history, family history, history of infections…) that help a physician diagnose an actual pulmonary malady. So don’t worry too much about the spirometry number in isolation until you’ve talked to your physician about it in detail.

Hope this helps.
Brent

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Thanks for your message. It’s very interesting. I think the nurse didn’t really have to give me the spirometry test because the doctor had already prescribed a preventative inhaler and I had been using it for a few weeks. Normally a nurse would do the test, give the patient a few puffs on an inhaler and then repeat the test. If the second results showed an improvement then they’d prescribe an inhaler. It was a bit pointless to do it once, like I did, but the results give me a benchmark that I can compare against when I get fit again.

I suppose lung age is a bit like reading or spelling age. It’s more demoralising to the recipient than a percentile rank or standard score.

Thanks
James

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