Respiration Explained: Why Do We Breathe? Why Is It Important?

Abhijeet Modi
Jan 24, 2024 By Abhijeet Modi
Originally Published on Oct 12, 2021
Lungs paper decorative model
Age: 3-18
Read time: 10.3 Min

Breathing through the nose happens to be the healthy way of inhaling oxygen.

Breathing lets the human body gain the power it requires to maintain itself and its activities. Normally humans breathe around 10 times a minute!

Have you ever given a thought to how the respiratory system works so smoothly? Our lungs permit us to inhale the oxygen our body desires, however they do a great deal in fulfilling our requirements. We need oxygen to survive. Fortunately, not only does breathing offer vital oxygen to the body, but it also gets rid of waste like carbon dioxide. The airway that leads from the larynx (voice box) to the bronchi is called a trachea. This trachea or bronchi is also called the windpipe. To begin, blood supplies air to the capillaries surrounding tiny air sacs called alveoli. Then, the lungs expand as air moves into the lungs from the windpipe via alveoli and then leaves the body again through the windpipe as we exhale.

We need to breathe to extract oxygen, which is required for our metabolism, without which we might die, due to the formation of phosphate ATP in mitochondria inside our cells. Cellular respiration takes place in the mitochondria. Then, we also need oxygen to get rid of carbon dioxide, which is made from our metabolism. It is dangerous if too much carbon dioxide accumulates. After reading this article about healthy breathing, you should also check our other articles on why do we pay taxes and why do we fall.

Breathing Oxygen Is Important

We need to breathe to maintain our metabolism and provide energy for our body to perform the necessary functions for our health. Did you know in order to push oxygen across the membrane of cells in the lungs, atmospheric pressure also plays a role?

The predominant supply of power we get from food is sugar, mainly glucose. Glucose needs to be broken down so that it provides us with the energy we require.

Everyday work of the body is mainly digesting your meals, transferring your muscle mass, or maybe simply thinking or breathing. When breathing or other functions occur, carbon dioxide is produced. The activity of your lungs is to offer your body oxygen by breathing in and to take away the waste carbon dioxide produced by breathing out.

Your brain continuously receives indicators out of your body which helps the brain to measure the quantity of oxygen and carbon dioxide in your blood. The brain will ship indicators to the muscle mass in the respiratory system and alter your breathing relying on how active you are. Accordingly, the brain will indicate a switch between oxygen (O2) and carbon dioxide (CO2) simultaneously.

The significance of respiration is connected to the most important thing that your body needs constantly, which is oxygen. Your cells need oxygen for the conversion of the vitamins you devour into energy for your body's health. All the individual cells have their requirements.

After breathing in, your body wishes to keep oxygen and eliminate the waste gas, so what does it do? It breathes it out! Respiration provides our body with the oxygen that is required and also helps in getting rid of carbon dioxide.

Tiny air sacs are present at the end of the bronchioles, which are tiny branches of air tubes in the lungs. In order to get rid of carbon dioxide, your body provides impure blood to the capillaries surrounding your alveoli. In the alveoli, the carbon dioxide moves to the lungs, from where it leaves the body when you exhale. Exhaling takes place when your diaphragm flexes upward to push air out from your lungs and return back into the air.

Inside the air sacs, oxygen movements occur through paper-thin partitions to tiny blood vessels referred to as capillaries and into your bloodstream. In these blood vessels, a protein referred to as hemoglobin within the red blood cells, or RBC, then carries the oxygen all around your body.

Blood with clean oxygen is carried out of your lungs to the left side of your heart, which pumps blood around your body via arteries. Blood without oxygen returns via veins to the right ventricle of your heart. From there it is pumped out by your lungs so you can breathe out the carbon dioxide and breathe in more oxygen.

How Lungs Work

The lungs help in bringing clean oxygen into your system which is crucial for your health. They do away with the different gases that your body does not need. We always tend to gasp for fresh air when surrounded by a number of people. We breathe more freely in places where the number of people around us is fewer or in an open area.

Every cell in your body requires oxygen for its functioning. The air we breathe consists of oxygen and different gases. Once the air is within the lungs, oxygen is moved into the bloodstream and carried around your body. At every cell in your body, oxygen is exchanged for carbon dioxide. Oxygen and carbon dioxide are two critical gases that control your body's functions. Your bloodstream containing this carbon dioxide takes it back to the lungs in which it's far eliminated from the bloodstream. After that, it is exhaled. Your lungs and respiratory system carry out this crucial process of respiratory gas exchange.

Do you know about the process of breathing? What muscles are included in this process? We inhale or pull in air through our noses or mouth. The lungs don't have any skeletal muscle mass of their own. The respiration is executed via means of the diaphragm, the muscle in the ribs under the chest (intercostal muscle mass), the muscle within the neck, and the stomach muscle.

The diaphragm is a dome-shaped sheet of muscle that separates the chest hollow space that is the chest and ribs cavity from the abdominal region. It is the most critical muscle used for respiration, referred to as inhalation or inspiration. The diaphragm in the chest under the ribs is connected to the bottom of the sternum, to the lower components of the rib cage, and to the spine. As the diaphragm contracts, it increases the length and diameter of the chest and as a result, expands the lungs. To breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes and pushes air out from your lungs. Likewise, our chest expands and contracts simultaneously. The intercostal muscle mass assists in the movement of the rib cage and the chest and helps with respiration. Lungs won’t expand and contract if the diaphragm does not go down while inhaling.

Why do we breathe harder when we exercise?

Adult and child hands holding lungs cutout

During exercise, two of the essential organs of the body come into action: the heart and the lungs. Do you know how they are related to respiration? The lungs deliver oxygen to the body, to offer energy, and get rid of carbon dioxide, the waste product manufactured while you produce energy. The coronary heart pumps the oxygen to the muscle mass which might be exercising.

When you exercise your muscles start working harder. Your body makes use of more oxygen and produces more carbon dioxide. To deal with this greater demand, your respiratory system has to increase its activity from approximately 15 instances a minute (2.6 gal (12 l) of air) while you are at rest, to as much as approximately 40-60 instances a minute (22 gal (100 l) of air) for the duration of exercise. Your movement additionally hurries up to take the oxygen to the muscle so that one can keep moving.

There are different types of breaths depending on the duration we inhale. Inhaling for a long duration is called a deep breath. Deep breathing is recommended to people in their old age. It helps to maintain control of breathing. Inhaling for a short duration is called a short breath. The volume of air that passes inside our body is lesser. Kids at a young age can manage with short breaths. A deep breath is healthy for you as a higher volume of air passes inside the body. Shortness of breath can sometimes be harmless and sometimes be a sign of some heart or lung problem.

Your diaphragm contracts while you breathe in, pulling the lungs down, stretching, and increasing them. It then relaxes your lower back right while you breathe out, decreasing the quantity of air for your lungs. When you exercise, your belly muscle tissues are used to push air out of the lungs while you breathe out. This is known as pressured expiration or simply shortness of breath.

How much oxygen do we breathe out?

Commonly an adult, while at rest, inhales and exhales approximately 1.5-1.8 gal (7-8 l) of air within a minute. We inhale approximately 2,419.7 gal (11,000 l) of air in a day.

The typical person inhales and exhales a total of 2,419.7 gal (11,000 l) of air within a day. Inhaled air has approximately 20% of oxygen and exhaled air has more or less 15% of oxygen by mass. Therefore, approximately 5% of the air we breathe is consumed with every breath. That air is transformed into carbon dioxide. So, if the amount of air used is approximately calculated, we see that people intake a volume of almost 121 gal (550 l) of natural oxygen within a day. Since the units are in gallons and liters, the amount is measured in volume. Every human has a different breathing rate, but the average human has a breathing rate of 12-15 breaths per minute.

When air reaches the lungs, some amount of this oxygen is transferred from the lungs to the blood. Then it is transported to the different parts of the body which require oxygen, leading to a smaller amount of oxygen exhaled.

The carbohydrates, fats, and proteins we eat and digest are ultimately transformed into glucose (C6H12O6) which our body needs. This is done by means of some exceptional biochemical processes that happen within the body. The glucose molecule is then fused with oxygen in the cells of the body in a chemical process called 'cell oxidation.' This chemical response is exothermic, and it produces the chemical power in the cells which is used to perform all of the different chemical reactions and features of a cell. This process of oxidation of glucose produces end products called carbon dioxide and water. The carbon dioxide is dissolved in the blood, carried to the lungs via circulation, and then breathed out.

The human body plays different functions throughout the day like digestion of food, movement of different muscles, or just thinking.  All these functions need oxygen to perform properly. During these processes, our body releases carbon dioxide as a waste product. This waste product or gas is released from the body through the lungs. The function of the lungs is to provide our body functions with oxygen and release carbon dioxide from the body.

All living things need oxygen to stay alive. The function of oxygen is to help organisms grow, reproduce and keep them energetic through food. Humans get oxygen by inhaling through our nose and sometimes through our mouth, and this inhaled oxygen goes to our lungs. Hence, oxygen helps make the cells able to break the food into small pieces so that we can digest them and extract energy from them to survive.

We know that we require energy for all our bodily activities, working together, contracting muscular tissues, and keeping the resting ability in our neurons, and again we ought to do some hard work to get back the energy we used.

Plants are able to acquire energy from sunlight and then convert it into carbohydrates or sugars. We can't do that, however, so we must use the energy saved in carbohydrates to perform all the different processes in our bodies to get the energy we need to combine sugar with oxygen. We consequently work hard to accumulate sugar and oxygen that is required in our bodies. In fact, we spend a great deal of our energy acquiring the sugar and oxygen we want to provide energy to the body, which then becomes a circular process.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for why do we breathe then why not take a look at why do we lie or why do we pray?

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Written by Abhijeet Modi

Master of Computer Science

Abhijeet Modi picture

Abhijeet ModiMaster of Computer Science

An experienced and innovative entrepreneur and creative writer, Abhijeet holds a Bachelor's and Master's degree in Computer Application from Birla Institute of Technology, Jaipur. He co-founded an e-commerce website while developing his skills in content writing, making him an expert in creating blog posts, website content, product descriptions, landing pages, and editing articles. Passionate about pushing his limits, Abhijeet brings both technical expertise and creative flair to his work.

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