The Respiratory System How it Works

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The Respiratory System: What is it?

Having healthy lungs is a basic requirement for a healthy respiratory system.

Breathe in.....breathe out.....you just used your respiratory system.

When you breathe in, your body takes in oxygen. When you breathe out, your body expels carbon dioxide. It is vital for our bodies to continually exchange these two gases, and it is the respiratory system that is doing that job for you. This exchange happens quickly and often — whether we are awake or sleep.

So why do we need oxygen? Once oxygen is in our cells, it burns the fuel which then produces energy. Oxygen-turned-into-energy helps us in many ways: among many other things, it contracts our muscles, repairs our cells, and feeds our brain.

When you breathe out, the waste gases, like carbon dioxide, are expelled from the body. So the respiratory system also acts as a cleansing system, getting rid of toxins that your body doesn't need.

What are the parts of the respiratory system?

The parts of the respiratory system include:

The average rate of breathing is dependent upon a person's age:

How does the respiratory system work?

Everyone understands the general principle of how the respiratory system works, but here is a more detailed look at the process.

Here are the stages of the breathing cycle 4 :

What are the diseases and disorders of the respiratory system?

Diseases and conditions of the respiratory system include:

Can exercise help the respiratory system?

Since the respiratory system's job is to tranport oxygen and carbon dioxide to and from muscles and tissues, exercise can be greatly beneficial to this system because, during exercise, the respiratory system increases its efforts to meet the demands of the working muscles. At the same time, the cardiovascular system is also increasing its efforts.

There are several ways exercise assists the respiratory and cardiovascular systems:

Cardiovascular exercise (walking, running, dancing, moving) does more to help the respiratory system than any other form of exercise. It is why it is included in every fitness class.

Other articles of interest:

I am a BCRPA-certified fitness instructor in Vancouver, BC. I teach four classes at the West End Community Centre in Vancouver, BC, mostly designed for the older adult. The Inevitable Disclaimer: Everything published here expresses only my opinion, based on my training and research. What you do with the information is entirely your own responsibility. I am not liable for any injury you suffer that seems to be related to anything you read here. Always consult your doctor before beginning an exercise program. For other articles, return to the table of contents.

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  1. These three dots behave exactly like a footnote. Click on them and you will get more information about the topic. 

  2. According to the Children's Hospital of Philadelphia. 

  3. According to Johns Hopkins Medicine. 

  4. Most of the information in this section is supplied by the American Lung Association.