The Physics
Factbook
An encyclopedia of scientific essays

Volume of Human Lungs

Bibliographic Entry Result
(w/surrounding text)
Standardized
Result
Seeley, Stephens & Tate. Essentials of anatomy And Physiology, Third Edition. McGraw-Hill, 1999. "Total lung capacity is the sum of the inspiratory and expiratory reservres and the tidal and residual volumes (»5800 mL)." 5800 cm3
Lung. Microsoft Encarta. 2001. "In adults, the tidal volume is equal to about 0.5 liters (about 1 pt.). The lungs can hold about ten times this volume if they are filled to capacity. [5 liters]" 5000 cm3
Therapeutic Exercise: Foundations and Techniques, Third Edition. Canada: Davis, 1996. "TLC [Total Lung Capacity] is approximately 6000 mL in a healthy young adult." 6000 cm3
Joan Luckmann, R.N., Karen Creason Sorenson, R.N., M.N. Medical-Surgical Nursing: A Psychophysiologic Approach Philadelphia: Saunders, 1974. "The ratios between these usually are as follows: the RV is 25 percent of the TLC; the VC is 75 percent of the TLC; normally the TLC is about 6 L. (i.e. 6000 mL)" 6000 cm3
Moses, M.D., Scott. Lung Volumes. Family Practice Notebook (20 May 2001). "Normal adult: 4-6 liters" 4000–6000 cm3

From day to day, humans continuously perform two processes that enable them to carry oxygen to and from the lungs: inspiration and expiration. Inspiration is a movement of air into the lungs, and expiration is a movement of air out of the lungs.

Tidal volume is the amount of air taken into the lungs in a single breath. In the average adult, tidal volume is about 0.5 liters. However, the lungs can hold a total of about 4-6 liters, which is close to ten times the tidal volume. This amount is known as the vital capacity. Vital capacity is the maximum volume expelled after maximal inspiration. Vital capacity can only be reached during strenuous exercise. In order to find the total lung capacity (TLC), we must take the residual volume (the volume remaining in the lungs after maximal expiration) into account. Total lung capacity can be found by adding the vital capacity and the residual volume. The residual volume is usually 25 % of the TLC while the Vital capacity makes up the other 75%.

Total Lung capacity is dependent upon many factors such as weight, sex, age and activity. For example, females tend to have a 20-25% lower capacity than males. Tall people tend to have a larger total lung capacity than shorter people. Heavy smokers have a drastically lower TLC than nonsmokers. Some people, such as elite athletes, have a TLC well above average. While the average TLC is about 5.8 liters (5800 cm3), it varies from one person to the next.

Lauren Calabrese -- 2001