Last Updated on by Eat Better Move More

Why Does Breathing Rate Increase During Exercise?

You want to keep fit and get in the right shape. You decide to work out every morning before going to work. On your first day, you put on your running shoes and your work out outfit and head to the park. When you start to run, you realize you’re running out of breath. You see yourself breathing harder than normal and it feels like the breath you’re taking in and giving out isn’t enough anymore. Your lungs feel closed in and you’re so uncomfortable. All you want to do is to just catch your breath. You take bigger breaths but you still feel like you’re suffocating.

After some time, when you take slower breaths and maintain the rhythm of breathing out and breathing in, you begin to get comfortable. Everything seems to become easier; you still feel the need to breathe heavily but now it doesn’t feel like you’re going to die. Why does breathing rate increase during exercise? Gasping for air during exercise is completely normal for everybody; there is nothing wrong with you. Here’s why:

The Respiratory System And Exercise

The respiratory system is the part of the body system that is responsible for the transportation and exchange of gas between the body and the external environment. Respiration involves two major processes:

External respiration: This is the process of inhaling air into the lungs and exhaling air into the environment. It is known as breathing. I’m sure you already knew that.

Internal respiration: This process is a little more complicated than just breathing out and breathing in. Internal respiration involves the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the cells and the blood vessels. The process of respiration begins at the nose or at the mouth and it goes through different processes before getting to the alveoli where the gases are them exchanged.

Exercise is the activity carried out to improve and maintain physical fitness, good health and general well being. It helps to maintain your physical fitness by strengthening your muscles and also by increasing your heart rate. The reason for this heart rate increase is because your heart is trying to pump blood faster for the availability of the parts of your body that needs it; the muscles, lungs and other cells.

Why Breathing Rate Increases

Why does breathing rate increase during exercise? During exercise, as your muscles take up oxygen needed, it pushes blood back to the heart at a faster rate. The heart beats faster to keep up with the blood it receives. The heart is also responsible for pumping blood to the lungs where carbon dioxide is then gotten rid of and oxygen is taken up again. This cycle continues on and on for as long as the muscles keep utilizing oxygen while you exercise.

This increase in heart rate causes you to breathe faster. Increased heart rate means more oxygen uptake by the muscles. The muscles, the heart and the lungs do the major work during exercise. Here are some activities that have to take place during exercise:

Oxygen uptake

When you begin a vigorous exercise, your muscles contract and begin to break down. This process of contraction requires energy. For energy to be provided, the muscles utilize oxygen. On a normal day, when the muscles contract, they utilize the oxygen available in the blood vessels. During exercise however, the demand of oxygen triples. The deoxygenated blood is then sent back to the heart. This puts extra pressure on the heart to pump more oxygenated blood. For the heart to pump faster, its rate must increase.

The reason why breathing rate increases is because as the heart demands a higher supply of oxygen, the lungs have to work faster. This makes you breathe faster to keep up with the intake and removal of the gases during respiration.

In the absence of oxygen during exercise, especially if the exercise is too extreme and the heart and lungs cannot keep up with the oxygen demand, the muscles start anaerobic respiration. In anaerobic respiration, lactic acid is produced as the end product instead of carbon dioxide. As the exercise extends over a long period of time, the lactic acid begins to build up in the muscles and this can lead to muscle debt. Also in the absence of oxygen, the muscles make use of the glycogen reserve to for respiration. As the glycogen reserve becomes too low, muscle fatigue sets in.

Carbon dioxide removal

As the process of oxygen uptake goes on, the body has to remove its metabolic waste products; carbon dioxide is a waste product. As the heart receives the deoxygenated blood from the muscles, it pumps it to the lungs for oxygenation. The lungs then have to remove carbon dioxide through breathing out and then exchanging it with oxygen by breathing in.

While exercising, the production of waste products increase, so to remove it quickly and provide the oxygen needed, heart rate increases which then causes your breathing to increase.

Medical Conditions That Can Increase Breathing Rate

There are several lung conditions that can cause shortness of breath. This can make exercise harder than it is because you need as much oxygen as you can get when you exercise. Some of these conditions include asthma, COPD or lung fibrosis. These conditions can make exercises difficult and when the proper precautionary measures are not put in place, exercising in any of these conditions can become life threatening.

If you have any problem with your lungs but you still want to work out, you can still do it. However you must seek a doctor’s advice on the measures to take to prevent getting injured.

What Other Factors Besides Exercise Might Influence Your Breathing?

You have seen why breathing rate increases during exercise and how important it is to your entire body system. But sometimes your breathing can increase even when you’re not exercising. What other factors besides exercise might influence your breathing?

  • Drugs
  • Anxiety
  • Medical condition
  • Weight
  • Excitement

Why Does Breathing Rate Increase During Exercise Conclusion

Why does breathing rate increase during exercise? The muscles are completely invested during exercise; they require oxygen when contracting. No matter the type of exercise you’re doing, your muscles are always involved. As your muscles contract, they send deoxygenated blood back to the heart and the heart sends oxygenated blood to the muscles.

The deoxygenated blood is sent to the lungs for oxygenation. The lungs then remove the waste product carbon dioxide and exchange it for oxygen, sending it back to the heart. For the heart to pump blood in and out at the pace required by the muscles, it works faster. This is why your heart beats faster when you exercise. All these processes occur simultaneously and they cause breathing rate to increase.

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