Last Updated on by Eat Better Move More

How Does Exercise Affect Cellular Respiration?

Exercise is a good way to stay fit, lose weight, maintain good health and manage stress. Exercising daily helps every part of your body. Some activities we carry out are unconscious forms of exercise like walking from one place to another when running errands, moving furniture when you’re cleaning, walking up the stairs. You must have noticed that when you walk on a number of stairs over a particular period of time, your muscles begin to burn and you get tired, why does it happen?

How does exercise affect cellular respiration? Did you know that your muscles need energy to contract? The energy they need increases when you exercise because they have more work to do. When you exercise you notice that you begin to breathe heavily, is there a reason for this?



Cellular respiration involves metabolic processes that occur in the cell where chemical energy reacts with food and other molecules to form ATP. ATP is the form of energy required for basically everything within a cell. Sitting down on a couch watching TV, standing up from the bed, moving from one place to another requires constant supply of ATP. 


Cellular respiration can be aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic and anaerobic metabolism are processes where energy required by the body is gotten from food. 

Aerobic respiration involves the utilization of oxygen for energy generation while anaerobic respiration produces energy in the absence of oxygen. The type of respiration required to produce oxygen depends on the intensity and duration of your exercise. Intense exercises that last between 0 to 3 minutes engage anaerobic respiration to produce energy. Exercises like sprinting, throwing a ball, jumping, and weight lifting increases the utilization of anaerobic respiration. Low to moderate exercises that last for over 3 minutes e.g. jogging or dancing involves the use of aerobic respiration to produce energy. Aerobic and anaerobic respiration both involves the breakdown of glucose. 


What are the key ways to differentiate aerobic and anaerobic respiration?

  1. Glucose: glucose is present and primarily involved in aerobic respiration while it is either absent or in short supply in anaerobic respiration.
  2. Products: the products of aerobic respiration are carbon dioxide and water while anaerobic respiration in mammals produces lactic acid.
  3. Aerobic respiration involves the complete oxidation of glucose while the products of anaerobic respiration still contain energy; this means that glucose is not oxidated completely.
  4. The amount of energy released by aerobic respiration is much more than that released by anaerobic respiration.
  5. If you are interested in burning fat, you can get involved in exercises that utilize aerobic respiration. Aerobic respiration uses fat as its primary source of energy production. 


How does exercise affect cellular respiration? In cellular respiration, anaerobic respiration makes use of carbohydrates to produce energy while aerobic respiration involves the use of carbohydrates and fats for energy generation. 

When you exercise, your muscles need extra energy to contract. When you’re exercising, your heart rate increases because of your muscle’s high demand for oxygen. The muscles make use of oxygen to produce energy required for contraction. As you exercise, the muscles extract oxygen from the blood and push the deoxygenated blood back to the heart. The heart then takes this deoxygenated blood and sends oxygenated blood back to the muscles. Other organs of the body also needs oxygen for their activities so the heart has to work extra fast to meet the demands of every part of the cell that needs blood; although the muscle is given utmost priority during exercise. The pressure mounted on the heart to provide oxygenated blood increases its rate of action; that’s why you can feel your heart beating faster than usual when you exercise.


How does exercise affect the disposal of wastes from cellular respiration? What does the heart do with the deoxygenated blood? The deoxygenated blood is sent to the lungs where carbon dioxide, a waste product is exhaled out of the system and oxygen is inhaled. The oxygenated blood is sent to the heart, and then the heart sends it to the muscles where it is needed. When you exercise, you will notice that you tend to take deeper breaths that sometimes don’t feel enough. This is because your lungs are trying to meet up with the demands for oxygen as your body goes through intense movements. When exercising, you are advised to take in deep breaths and breathe out slowly; this helps to regulate your breath as well as ensure that the oxygen required for muscle contraction to continue is available.

What happens if your heart and lungs can’t supply sufficient oxygen for your muscles during exercise? Let’s face it, other parts of the body needs oxygen too. When your heart and your lungs cannot provide the oxygen that would be enough for your muscles, the muscles begin to utilize anaerobic respiration. In this case, glucose is converted to lactic acid instead of carbon dioxide and water; the muscles still contract but not as required. 

Have you tried performing vigorous exercise for a long period of time that you begin to feel pain in your muscles? Your legs also feel like they would give out if you don’t sit down. During vigorous exercise, the level of lactic acid in the body increases, glycogen that has been stored up for other purposes become low because glucose is being used by the muscles. Build up of lactic acid in the muscles produces oxygen debt (oxygen is still required to break down lactic acid). Because of the low levels of glycogen, muscle fatigue occurs and you just have to stop exercising until you get your energy back.


How does exercise affect cellular respiration? At high intensity of exercise, cellular respiration increases. This means that when your exercise becomes vigorous and long, the need for oxygen increases for the muscles, heart and lungs. Aerobic and anaerobic respiration plays significant roles when you exercise. Consuming the right amount of food can help your body make use of the right substances required to produce energy.


Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here