FREE Shipping on orders over $899

WhatsApp Customer Service

Why do I have trouble breathing when I exercise?

Why do I have trouble breathing when I exercise?

Every day more people become aware that physical activity is a fundamental part of having a healthy lifestyle. But not doing it very often, or exercising incorrectly, can lead to difficulty breathing while exercising.

Difficulty breathing when playing sports can manifest as shortness of breath, cough, narrowing of the throat and wheezing (a whistle-like noise when air passes through our throat).

Additionally, there are many reasons why breathing problems may develop during physical activity. In this article we will analyze everything associated with breathing during exercise.

What function does breathing have?

Breathing has several functions, however, the most important is to maintain the functionality of the body through:

  • Supply of oxygen to tissues and disposal of CO2, caused by cells.
  • Constant maintenance of blood acidity, which is measured by pH, which decreases if blood acidity increases and vice versa. The pH has a narrow range that is between 7.35 and 7.45. Respiration is responsible for keeping the blood in this range by expelling CO2.

What is ventilation?

In order to define breathing, you must know the concept of ventilation and the types there are. On the one hand, we have pulmonary ventilation, which is the process by which air enters and leaves the lungs. This mechanism is given by the neural activation of the respiratory muscles and the pressure differences between the lungs and the outside air.

On the other hand, all this air that we breathe does not reach the alveoli to produce gas exchange and be able to bring oxygen to the tissues, but rather it stays in the respiratory tract (bronchi, trachea, etc.). This unused air occupies a volume called "anatomical dead space."

If we subtract the volume of air that enters through lung ventilation, and that of the air from the physiological dead space, we get the air that actually reaches the alveoli and is used. This volume that reaches the alveoli is part of the alveolar ventilation mechanism.

Therefore, depending on the way we breathe, whether we breathe deeper or more superficially, whether it is hot or cold, or whether we are exercising or not, the amount of air that actually reaches the alveoli may vary, that is, the amount of air that reaches the alveoli varies. alveolar ventilation.

Although there are two different types of ventilation, both are represented by the same variables (with some differences), since, ultimately, this process is defined as the volume that enters when we breathe per minute. This technically is the multiplication between:

  • Breathing frequency: how many times we breathe per minute. On average, a healthy person usually takes 12 breaths per minute, at rest.
  • Tidal volume: It is the volume of air that enters in one breath. A healthy person at rest usually obtains 0.5L of air per breath.
  • Therefore, the ventilation of a healthy person is usually about 6 liters per minute.

Breathing when exercising: how does this process occur?

When you exercise, your muscles carry out two processes:

  • They use the oxygen that reaches them from the blood to obtain energy and be able to move.
  • Because they have to work hard, they also obtain energy through other processes that do not require oxygen. However, they generate lactate, which is released into the blood and acidifies it.

Because of these processes, the blood circulating through the muscle tissues becomes depleted of oxygen and acidified; and this can endanger the body. Fortunately, to prevent this from happening, the brain, through receptors distributed throughout the body, becomes aware of these alterations and causes:

  • Let's breathe faster, increasing the respiratory rate.
  • This breathing is much deeper so that more volume of air can enter the lungs for each breath we take, that is, the tidal volume increases.

Therefore, if the respiratory rate and respiratory volume increase, pulmonary and alveolar ventilation will also increase. That is to say:

  • More oxygen will reach the blood to satisfy the needs of the muscles.
  • More CO2 will be expelled, causing the acid generated by muscles to be eliminated, and keeping the pH of the blood stable as we had explained before.

Stages of breathing during exercise

According to studies, it has been determined that there are three stages when we exercise. In the first and second stages, the ventilation increases abruptly to be able to carry out the activity. By reaching the third stage, the body gets used to it and ventilation remains stable.

Why do I have trouble breathing when I exercise?

If we are not used to exercising, at first we may feel short of breath. However, this effect is completely normal. The respiratory system has to make an extra effort to keep everything in order in the blood, and not to alter it as we have explained.

However, confirm that we continue doing the exercise, breathing is harder for us, since the body is getting used to the new situation. On the other hand, we must know that it is not the same to perform an exercise with the same intensity throughout the entire time as an exercise that increases in power.

In an exercise that increases in power over time, the body will not get used to it and will continue to demand more oxygen. Therefore, we will breathe even faster. Of course, we continue introducing the same volume of air for each breath.

In professional athletes we can observe that their respiratory rate is much lower. This is because you have trained your respiratory system to take in more air, that is, breathe more deeply and keep that air in your lungs much longer, thus needing fewer breaths.

Although the feeling that it is difficult for us to breathe during exercise indicates that we are not used to it, we cannot ignore that it can also alert other respiratory or cardiovascular pathologies. Therefore, we must be attentive to symptoms such as:

  • Shortness of breath or suffocation, so strong as to prevent continuing with the activity.
  • Wheezing or wheezing when breathing.
  • Dizziness or fainting.
  • Sensation that the chest expands and retracts exaggeratedly.

If you experience such discomfort, it is best to go to the doctor to determine if it is caused by an illness. If so, the professional will guide the treatment according to the problem.

Sharing is health! :) , Follow us on our social networks.


"Because prevention is better than cure"

Leave a comment

Please note: comments must be approved before they are published.