The Importance Of Breathing In Sport

Breathing is a complex process, which includes both mechanical and biochemical phenomena. It is essential to understand them in order to know their relationship with sports performance.
The importance of breathing in sport

When you start playing sports, many adaptations and changes occur in the body. Most of these processes take place to improve performance during physical activity. Breathing is no exception, and it is of great importance in sport.

When it comes to cardiovascular exercise, one of the most important changes occurs in the respiratory system. In this article we will talk about the importance of breathing in sports and how we can take advantage of it for better performance.

Breathing and sport

Breathing is the process by which the respiratory organs obtain an exchange of the gases necessary for the proper functioning of the body. The following bodies intervene in this process:

  • Upper airways : formed by the nose and mouth, along with the pharynx and larynx.
  • Lower airways : These include the trachea, bronchi and bronchioles.
  • Lung parenchyma : together with the tissue that covers it – the pleura – forms the lungs. This is the organ where gas exchange takes place, while the airways carry the gases up here.

The breathing process is more complex than simply inhaling or exhaling. It is a constant play between negative and positive air pressures, thus establishing a differential gradient between the inside and the outside that helps the lungs fill with air. This air is made up mostly of nitrogen, although the essential element for the body is oxygen.

Gas exchange

Air is introduced into the lungs through inspiration. Oxygen travels through the upper and lower airways to eventually reach the pulmonary alveolus. The alveolus-capillary membrane is located in the alveolus, which puts the blood in contact with the air.

Due to the difference in gradient – this time it is a chemical gradient, different from the pressure we talked about earlier – oxygen passes into the blood and carbon dioxide is expelled from the blood into the alveolus, from which it will come out on exhalation.

Woman playing tennis.  Importance of breathing in sport.

The oxygen that enters the pulmonary circulation travels to the left ventricle and is expelled into the general circulation from the ventricle in the form of oxygenated blood. This oxygen will be essential for the correct functioning of the whole organism and will participate in the true respiration, the cellular one.

Through this process, energy is obtained in the form of ATP to nourish tissues such as muscles ; hence the great importance of correct breathing to achieve physical activity.

The importance of breathing for sport

During exercise, the body’s energy and oxygen needs are undoubtedly greater. To nourish the tissues, especially those involved in physical activity such as muscles, it is necessary to increase the heart rate and respiratory rate.

This means that much more oxygen enters the lungs per minute, making breaths deeper and more frequent. In this way you can go from a respiratory rate of 15 breaths per minute to 60 in intense exercise.

How Does Exercise Affect Breathing?

Practicing any type of sport that increases breathing rate will have a direct beneficial effect on lung capacity. These are some of its positive effects:

  • Improves lung resistance. This means they inflate and deflate more efficiently, improving gas exchange.
  • It makes gas exchange at the alveolar-capillary membrane more efficient, improving the structure of this membrane.
  • With cardiovascular improvement due to cardiac adaptations, a greater volume of blood enters the lungs from the right cavities. This causes more alveoli that were previously unused or used only during very intense exercises to be recruited. This improves baseline lung capacity.
  • Energetic breaths during exercise strengthen the respiratory muscles, resulting in more efficient breathing.

How does breathing affect exercise?

Proper breathing in sports can help improve performance. Many athletes, especially runners, worry about maintaining adequate breathing during their activity to optimize performance.

Athletes breathing while playing sports.

The goal is to keep your breathing rhythmic and in sync with activity. One of the explanations why this improves performance is the Bohr effect.

This effect causes the lungs to be able to introduce a maximum volume of oxygen. If we increase our breathing rate from that point on, we just excrete carbon dioxide.

Expelling excess carbon dioxide is ineffective, since during the Bohr effect the tissues, full of carbon dioxide, exchange oxygen more easily than red blood cells. Losing too much dioxide means that oxygen will not reach the tissue efficiently.

Breathing is essential for performance

Breathing is a more complex process than it seems: a process that appears mechanical at first glance, in reality has a deep biochemical basis.

Knowing them, understanding them and knowing how to manage them in practice is very important to take a further step in training and improve physical condition and health through exercise. It is clear that you have to take care of every little detail to improve your performance!

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