Thursday, 9 February 2012

How Exercise Affects Breathing |

How Exercise Affects Breathing Photo Credit run image by Du...�an Zidar from

Based on the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans, all Americans should aim for 150 minutes of moderate aerobic exercise weekly. If exercise is not already a habit, you probably think that this is a large time commitment. Completing just 10 minutes at a time can make this achievable. If you can talk comfortably, but not sing, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, or CDC, defines this type of activity as moderate. Aerobic activities get your heart beating faster and you breathing harder.


Exercise that requires oxygen to produce energy is called aerobic exercise. Examples of aerobic exercise include jogging, swimming and biking. The American College of Sports Medicine states that for the activity to be aerobic, you must be "working hard enough to raise your heart rate and break a sweat." If you have not been active for a while, you should gradually work up your intensity level.

Anaerobic exercise does not require a higher oxygen level. Anaerobic exercise includes weight training and yoga. Instead of oxygen, muscles burn lactic acid for energy during anaerobic fitness. Anaerobic activity is important for strengthening muscles.


According to the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute, "you need to breathe more often when you do physical activity." During aerobic exercise, energy is made, oxygen is used and carbon dioxide is created. When your brain detects an increase in carbon dioxide, you will breathe faster and deeper and may begin to feel short of breath. This is your body's effort to take in more oxygen. Even after exercise, your respiration rate remains elevated while your body compensates for the extra carbon dioxide and lack of oxygen.

General Effects

The more you exercise, the faster your lungs will be able to exchange oxygen and carbon dioxide to keep your oxygen level in the appropriate range. As your fitness level improves, your endurance increases and your heart begins to function more effectively. As a result, your heart pumps more oxygen-rich blood to your muscles and you can exercise longer before feeling breathless. This is the point when exercise seems to become easier.

Health Considerations

If you have emphysema, an ideal exercise program would strengthen the muscles in the arms and legs. According to the University of Maryland Medical Center, or UMMC, this type of exercise "helps some patients improve their endurance and reduce breathlessness."

When exercise triggers coughing, wheezing or shortness of breathe, you may have exercised-induced asthma. This type of asthma occurs only from exercise and when the activity is of a long duration and in cold dry air. UMMC recommends including a warm-up and cool-down period in your workout and to consider activities that include "short bursts of exercise," like tennis.


Exercise may benefit breathing in other ways. Exercise may reduce your risk of lung cancer, according to the CDC. Exercise may also benefit lung cancer patients by gradually increasing their ability to breath during daily activities and may improve their quality of life. Exercise may improve symptoms of depression and also help you sleep better.


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