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The Differences Between Breathing And Respiration

User Henry Lee time30 May,2019

Raise your hand if you have enjoyed reading Sherlock Holmes. It is undeniably the most celebrated mystery series, which has ever been produced in the history of literature.

Now you may love the high-functioning sociopath and his antics. But, you also can’t deny that, in reality, there are greater mysteries which are worth exploring.

One such mystery is the process of respiration and breathing.

Often times, students come up to us with questions like “ Is breathing same as Respiration?” “ What is the difference between ventilation and breathing?” “ What is the difference between gas exchange and respiration?” Or “ What is the difference between Breathing and Respiration?”

Well to know all, keep reading this blog.

difference between breathing and respiration

Differences Between Breathing and Respiration: An Overview

Now, imagine you are in the examination hall and you are answering the question, “state the difference between breathing and respiration.” But, when the papers are handed out after the exams, you discover that your answer is incorrect. You realise that you got confused between the two processes. Chances are you may have already been through such a scenario or want to avoid it. In both cases, you need to have complete clarity on this topic. So, given below are some brilliant insights into the difference between respiration and breathing.

Respiration: Definition and stages

Respiration is identified as an involuntary, biochemical action, carried out by the cells of the body. In this process, oxygen and glucose are converted into carbon dioxide and water. The process helps in generating energy in the form of ATP.

Now, energy is required by the organisms to carry out various tasks, both physically as well as chemically. This way, it can be used for movement, growth, repair, and effective monitoring of body temperature, etc. So, simply put, energy is accumulated by the chemical reaction recognised as respiration. All living beings like animals and plants cells go through this reaction.

Figure 1: Types of Respiration

The process of respiration is categorised into two sections, aerobic and anaerobic. In the process of aerobic respiration, oxygen and glucose are needed to generate more water and carbon dioxide. This reaction occurs in the mitochondria of the cell.

Anaerobic respiration is required when we indulge in hardcore exercises or running, or in case there is insufficient oxygen to carry out aerobic respiration. The energy production tends to be lower than aerobic respiration. Also, it produces lactic acid, which is responsible for triggering fatigue and pain, which again leads to muscle cramping.

Microorganisms like Yeast and bacteria go through anaerobic respiration, which is useful for the fermentation process. These are utilised for making brewers and wine, while carbon dioxide is used to prepare bakery items.

Glycolysis and Kreb’s Cycle

The Krebs cycle is named after its inventor Hans Krebs. It is also identified as the citric acid cycle or the tricarboxylic acid cycle. It represents a series of chemical reactions needed for cellular respiration. It involves the reactions categorised as redox, hydration, dehydration, and decarboxylation that produce ATP (adenosine triphosphate), a coenzyme energy carrier for the cells. 

The process of glycolysis is linked to the Krebs cycle, as it splits a six-carbon glucose molecule into two three-carbon pyruvate molecules. For each glucose molecule respired, the cycle reactions take place twice as two pyruvic acid molecules are formed. Glycolysis is recognised as an anaerobic reaction, which happens in the cytoplasm of the cell. The rest of the reactions in cellular respiration are aerobic, thus requiring oxygen, and takes place in the mitochondria of the cell. This is how the process of respiration takes place in the cells.

Breathing: Definition and Phases

Contrary to respiration, breathing is biophysical, voluntary action carried out by the body, to inhale and exhale the air through the lungs. This process of expanding and constricting of the ribcage (chest) involves the muscles present between the ribs. The diaphragm is one such muscle. The diaphragm is basically a layer of muscle that is present between the thoracic cavity and the abdominal cavity.

The diaphragm pulls air into the body of living beings. When it moves downwards, and oxygen-rich air reaches inside the lungs (at least 20% of valuable oxygen), the air is transmitted to the cells of the body via the bloodstream. The process of breathing is also known as ventilation.

The process of breathing comprises of two phases- inspiration and expiration.

  • Inspiration (Inhalation)

This is the stage in which the diaphragm, and three intercostal muscles contract. The diaphragm shifts downwards. The intercostal muscles let the rib cage move upwards. These two steps raise the volume of the thoracic cavity. Also, the process lowers the air pressure to below atmospheric pressure enabling the air to pass through the airways then enter into the alveoli.

  • Expiration (Exhalation)

This system is the opposite of inspiration. When the diaphragm and intercostal muscles relax, this allows the diaphragm to move upwards, and the intercostal muscles let the rib cage remain in its resting state. The volume within the thoracic cavity decreases. This decrease in volume now triggers a spike in pressure above atmospheric pressure, which pulls the air out up the airway.

Figure 2: Phases of Breathing

Difference between breath and breathe

Even though both breathe and breath are associated with the air in our lungs, but they are used to describe different functions. Breathe refers to the act of inhaling and exhaling, while breath refers to the full cycle of breathing.

As per the rules of English Language, the word “breathe” is a verb that is used to describe the process of inhaling and exhaling in living organisms. However, the word “breath” is a noun which is used to refer to a full cycle of breathing. It is also used to refer to the air that is inhaled or exhaled by living beings.

What is the difference between cellular respiration and breathing/ventilation?

Given below is a table that shows the difference between cellular respiration and breathing/ventilation:

Basis of comparison Respiration Breathing/Ventilation
Meaning This is a process in which energy is generated by breaking down the glucose. The energy is utilised by the cell to perform various work on a cellular level. The system of inhaling the oxygen and exhaling the carbon dioxide carried out by the lungs is identified as breathing.
Takes place in Respiration takes place in cells. Breathing happens in the lungs.
Energy produced As per the process of respiration, the energy is released in the form of ATP. Breathing doesn’t involve the process of energy production.
Kind of process Respiration is recognised as an involuntary biochemical process and involves two stages: Glycolysis and Krebs cycle. Breathing is a voluntary biophysical process and specifically involves inspiration and expiration.
Enzymes Many enzymes assume a significant role during the process of respiration. The process of breathing does not involve enzymes.
Intracellular /Extracellular Respiration takes place within the cells, and hence, it is an intracellular process. Breathing takes place outside the cells, and thus, it is known as an extracellular process.
Takes place through Respiration takes place in the cells of the body of an organism, particularly in organelles like mitochondria, etc. The breathing process takes place through respiratory organs like the lungs, nose, etc.

Table : Difference between cellular respiration and breathing/ventilation

Now that you have gathered some understanding of what is the difference between cellular respiration and breathing, let us move on to discuss how both these processes are related.

How is breathing directly related to cellular respiration?

Cellular respiration is directly connected to breathing, as breathing offers the required oxygen molecules for the process of cellular respiration to occur. Cellular respiration is a process by which cells accumulate energy. The oxygen offered by breathing is utilised as a final hydrogen acceptor for the process.

At the time of inhaling, the oxygen necessary for cellular respiration is provided. While exhaling, the carbon dioxide that is generated by cellular respiration leaves the body. The relationship between cellular respiration and breathing is crucial because, without one of the processes, the other cannot take place.

Parting thoughts,

Hope these insights offer complete clarity so that you can confidently proceed to answer questions on the differences or connection between the two processes. This means you have less chances of fumbling during the exams or while preparing academic assignments.

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