Difference Between Breathing and Respiration | Breathing vs. Respiration

Breathing and respiration are two interrelated physiological processes that are essential for human survival. While the terms are often used interchangeably, they actually refer to distinct processes that occur within the body. In this article, we will explore the differences between breathing and respiration, including their definitions, mechanisms, and functions.

Definition of Breathing

Breathing, also known as ventilation, refers to the mechanical process of inhaling and exhaling air into and out of the lungs. It is the physical act of moving air into the lungs and expelling it back out, allowing the exchange of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the body and the environment.

Mechanics of Breathing

The process of breathing is regulated by the respiratory system, which includes the lungs, trachea, bronchi, and diaphragm. When we inhale, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward, causing the chest cavity to expand and creating a negative pressure that draws air into the lungs.

When we exhale, the diaphragm relaxes and moves upward, causing the chest cavity to shrink and expelling air out of the lungs. This process is repeated approximately 12-20 times per minute, depending on a person’s age and physical condition.

Importance of Breathing

Breathing is essential for life, as it allows the body to take in oxygen and expel carbon dioxide. Oxygen is necessary for cellular respiration, which is the process by which cells convert nutrients into energy.

Carbon dioxide is a waste product of cellular respiration and must be eliminated from the body to maintain proper pH levels in the blood.

Definition of Respiration

Respiration, on the other hand, refers to the chemical process by which cells produce energy. It involves the breakdown of nutrients, such as glucose, through a series of biochemical reactions that release energy in the form of ATP (adenosine triphosphate).

Mechanics of Respiration

Respiration occurs in the mitochondria, which are small organelles within cells that are responsible for energy production. Glucose is broken down through a series of reactions, which ultimately results in the release of energy in the form of ATP.

Oxygen is required for this process to occur, as it is the final electron acceptor in the electron transport chain, which is the last step in ATP production.

Importance of Respiration

Respiration is essential for cellular metabolism and energy production. Without respiration, cells would be unable to produce the ATP needed for essential functions such as muscle contraction, nerve conduction, and other physiological processes.

Differences Between Breathing and Respiration

While breathing and respiration are both essential for life, they differ in several key ways:


Breathing is a mechanical process that involves the movement of air in and out of the lungs. Respiration, on the other hand, is a chemical process that occurs within cells.

Organs Involved

Breathing involves the respiratory system, including the lungs, trachea, bronchi, and diaphragm. Respiration occurs within cells, specifically in the mitochondria.


The purpose of breathing is to bring oxygen into the body and expel carbon dioxide. The purpose of respiration is to produce ATP for cellular energy.

In summary, while breathing and respiration are often used interchangeably, they are distinct processes that serve different functions. Breathing is a mechanical process that allows the exchange of gases between the body and the environment, while respiration is a chemical process that produces energy within cells.

Both processes are essential for life, and understanding their differences can help us appreciate the complexity and interconnectedness of the human body.

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