Effect of Playing a Wind Instrument on Lung Capacity of Seventh Graders

Researched by Kaylyn F.


The purpose of this experiment was to determine if seventh graders who played wind instruments had a greater lung capacity than seventh graders who didn't

I became interested in this idea when I noticed my sister falling behind me when we were running. My sister does not play an instrument but I do, and I wondered if playing one had increased my lung capacity. Also, I had seen that I could run longer than I had before I had started playing my instrument.

The information gained from this experiment could benefit doctors, medical experts, and coaches who want their students to excel. It would also benefit the seventh graders who want to increase their lung capacity.


My hypothesis was that seventh graders who play a wind instrument would have a greater lung capacity than seventh graders who do not.

I based my hypothesis on a statement by Bruce Smith, a respiratory therapist working at Memorial Hospital in Yakima, who said, “I believe that playing an instrument would at least strengthen your breathing muscles and that may increase lung capacity.”


The constants in this study were
* Testing procedures 
* Approximate number of students in each test group
* Grade of subjects being tested
* Instrument used to measure lung capacity
* Nose plugs on every subject
* The testing atmosphere 

The manipulated variable was whether or not the subjects played a wind instrument. 

The responding variable was the lung capacity of the subjects. 

To measure the responding variable I used a Pulmonary Function Machine, which measures in liters. 

30 Seventh graders
30 Signed parent permission slips
1 Data table 
1 Instruction sheet
1 Pencil
1 Pulmonary Function Machine
30 Nose plugs
1 Room for testing in
1 Adult for supervision


1. Give parent permission forms to the seventh graders before using them in the experiment
2. Accept any that come back and prepare to do the following test
3. Set up the Pulmonary Function Machine in the testing room
4. Bring student into the testing area and seat near Pulmonary Function Machine
5. Put their initials on the data table to show where the data will go and read the directions to the student
6. Demonstrate the use of the Pulmonary Function Machine
7. Answer any questions the student has
8. Have the student cover their nose with a nose plug
9. Let the student do a practice test to give them the idea of what to do
10. Have the student do the real test and record the data on the table
11. Repeat step 10 twice more
12. Thank the student for their time and lead them out of the testing area
13. Prepare for the next student by replacing the mouth piece with a new one and getting out a new nose plug
14. Repeat steps 4 through 13 for the 29 other students


The original purpose of this experiment was to determine if seventh graders who played a wind instrument had a higher lung capacity than seventh graders who did not.

The results of the experiment were that seventh graders who did not play a wind instrument had a higher lung capacity than seventh graders who did. On average the seventh graders who played a wind instrument had a lung capacity of 2.44 liters and the seventh graders who did not play a wind instrument averaged 2.78 liters.

See the table and graph below.


My hypothesis was that seventh graders who play a wind instrument would have a greater lung capacity than seventh graders who do not play one.

The results indicate that this hypothesis should be rejected. The overall average for seventh graders who played a wind instrument was 2.44, and the overall average for seventh graders who did not play a wind instrument was 2.78.

Because of the results of this experiment, I wonder if there would be a difference between seventh grade girls and boys. I also wonder if seventh graders would have a different lung capacity than adults. 

If I were to conduct this project again I would use a bigger test group and use high school students who have played instruments much longer than seventh graders.


Lungs are elastic organs used by vertebrates to breathe. Since all people need oxygen to live, they are essential to human life. Lung capacity shows how much air the lungs can hold. If the lungs cannot hold enough air, when physical activities are done the person tires more easily and may eventually get sick. Normally, the more air the lungs can hold the healthier you are. 

In humans the lungs are paired, they have a right and left lung. These lungs are used mainly for gas exchange. The lungs are positioned on either side of the heart and take up most of the chest cavity, from the collarbone to the diaphragm, though to make room for the heart the left lung is smaller than the right. The texture of the lungs is soft and spongy, and they can be thought of as an elastic bag filled with tiny air chambers called alveoli. If the alveoli were spread flat they would cover about half a tennis court by themselves. Tiny blood vessels called capillaries form a network inside each alveolus. Covering the lungs is a thin, tough membrane called visceral pleura.

Respiratory System
The respiratory system consists of a lot more than just the lungs. The pharynx, larynx and trachea connect the nose and mouth with the lungs. These are more commonly known as the throat, voice box, and windpipe. The trachea then divides into two smaller tubes that each lead to a lung. These are called bronchi and they separate further inside the lungs. The heart and esophagus are between the two lungs.

“Breathing is the mechanical procedure in which air reaches the lungs.” Quoted from Encyclopedia dot com, this is the definition of breathing. Breathing is done in two separate stages. First there's inspiration. This is breathing in. Then you have expiration, breathing out. When this happens gasses like carbon dioxide are taken out of the lungs and put into the atmosphere. Both inspiration and expiration are controlled by the part of the brain called the respiratory center. The air we breathe in is mostly nitrogen, and is only 20 per cent oxygen. 

What The Lungs Do
The lungs have one main job, to exchange gasses within the body. The oxygen in the air that our cells need to live gets carried from the starting passages, either the nose or the mouth, into the lungs. The respiratory system carries it to the blood stream, which transports it to cells all over the body. The cells use the oxygen, and then give off carbon dioxide as a waste product. The carbon dioxide is taken back to the blood stream and into the lungs where it can be exhaled or eliminated by an automatic control system.

Wind Instruments
Wind instruments are all the instruments that have tone produced by vibrating air. They are varied in size, shape and function. Some have holes, some have valves and some have slides. In the instrument the wind passage is called the bore. This can be shaped like a cone or be cylindrical. Generally wind instruments are classified into two groups, brass and woodwind. 

Woodwind instruments are separated in three basic families, having a flute family that is played without a reed, the clarinet family using a single reed, and the oboe family played with a double reed. The brass group consists mainly of trumpet, trombone, bugle, and tuba. These have cup shaped mouthpieces. The French horn is also a brass instrument, and has a funnel shaped mouthpiece. Instead of reeds the players control the brass with their vibrating lips.

Lung Diseases
Lung diseases such as cancer are mainly caused by tobacco, which is thought to cause 8 out of every 10 cases. When non-smokers breathe in the smoke it gives them a better chance of getting lung disease. Healthy lungs are important to the overall health of any vertebrate because of the jobs they do. When the lungs fail to work, there is cardiopulmonary resuscitation, an “emergency procedure used to treat victims of cardiac and respiratory arrest.” Quote from Encyclopedia dot com. 

Measuring Lung Capacity
Lung capacity is the total amount of air your lungs can hold. This can be measured in many different ways, one of which is a hand held device that allows people to do it themselves. Called the Pulmonary Function Machine it comes in all kinds of sizes and all have a different way of measuring. A small one is called the Ko Ko Peak+. It can measure both total lung capacity and the lung capacity of 1 second. Total lung capacity is represented by FEV6, and the second lung capacity is FEV1. It also gives a ratio shown as FEV1 over FEV6. The Ko Ko Peak+ measures lung capacity in liters. 

The lungs are an important part of the respiratory system. Without them our bodies would not get the oxygen we need to live. These bullet shaped organs are used for exchanging gasses, like carbon dioxide and oxygen. The lungs can get diseases such as cancer, and then the lungs don't perform this job as well. Lung capacity is a measurement of lung health. To measure lung capacity you use a Pulmonary Function Machine, which comes in many different sizes. 

Wind instruments are all the instruments that have tone produced by vibrating air. These instruments are separated into two groups, woodwind and brass. 


Burich, Raymond L. “Mouth.”

Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Lungs. 1 1/11/03 and 11/14/03.

Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. Wind Instrument. 11/20/03.

Hildebrandit, Jack “Lungs.” World Book Encyclopedia. 

“Lungs and Respiration.” The Human Body: The World Book Encyclopedia of Science. 1998-1999. 

Modell, Harold I. “Lung.” World Book Encyclopedia. 1998.

The Lung Association. Respiratory System. 10/10/03. 


I would like to thank the following people for helping make my project possible:

  • My parents were very supportive all through my project, and drove me to Memorial Hospital, picked me up from after school classes, and took me to the early classes on conference week.
  • My older sister helped me cut boarders for the items on my board.
  • Bruce Smith lent me the Pulmonary Function Machine and gave me the nose plugs and mouthpieces. He also taught me how to use the machine.
  • My friends were also very supportive and encouraging. They helped me to balance work and fun during this project.
  • The seventh graders subjects made the whole thing possible and were very cooperative.
  • Mr. Newkirk corrected my papers and gave me useful advice.
  • Mrs. Helms helped me cut the things for my board, and was always around if I needed help.
  • Also, I would like to thank the teachers who let me take students out of class so I could test them. 

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