Why is Breathing Necessary?

What is essential for your survival on Earth? If you’re like most children, the first things that come to mind are eating and drinking.

However, there is one more crucial activity that you must constantly do to stay alive. What is it? Breathing, of course!

We do it so frequently and automatically that we often forget about it. We can survive for days without water and possibly weeks without food, but we can’t go minutes without breathing!

But why is that? What is the purpose of breathing? The significance of breathing is directly related to the importance of a particular element that your body constantly needs: oxygen.

When you inhale, a large muscle called the diaphragm moves downward to help bring air into your lungs. Your lungs are one of the largest organs in your body. They work in conjunction with the rest of your respiratory system to supply your body’s cells with the necessary oxygen.

If you place your hand on your chest, you can feel it expand and contract as you inhale and exhale. This demonstrates the power of your lungs and diaphragm working together to bring air in and out of your body.

As you breathe in air, it travels through large tubes in your lungs known as bronchi. The bronchi then divide into smaller tubes called bronchioles. Each lung has approximately 30,000 bronchioles.

At the end of each bronchiole, there are clusters of extremely tiny air sacs called alveoli. How small are alveoli? They are very small! In fact, there are about 600 million alveoli in your lungs!

The alveoli in your lungs are covered with tiny blood vessels called capillaries. It is in the alveoli that the oxygen in the air you breathe enters your bloodstream through the capillaries. From the capillaries, the oxygenated blood travels to the heart, where it is pumped to the rest of the cells in your body.

Your cells require oxygen to convert the nutrients you consume into energy. During this energy production process, waste products such as carbon dioxide are generated.

Your body needs to eliminate carbon dioxide, so what does it do? It breathes it out! That’s right! Breathing not only supplies your body with necessary oxygen, but it also eliminates waste like carbon dioxide.

To get rid of carbon dioxide, your blood transports it to the capillaries surrounding your alveoli. In the alveoli, the carbon dioxide moves into the lungs, where it is expelled from the body when you exhale. Exhalation occurs when your diaphragm moves upward to push air out of your lungs and back into the atmosphere.

Give It a Try

Take a deep breath… and then engage in the following activities with a friend or family member:

  1. Have you ever wondered about the processes happening inside your body when you inhale and exhale? Discover it! Go online and watch the animation “What Happens When You Breathe” to witness your lungs in action. It’s quite fascinating, isn’t it? Did you ever imagine that there are numerous components working together during the breathing process? Share your newfound knowledge with a friend or a family member.
  2. Do you find yourself breathing harder during physical activity? Well, you should! Conduct a simple experiment to observe how your breathing rate increases with different types of exercise. Start by measuring your resting breathing rate. Before commencing the exercise, count the number of breaths you take in 10 seconds. Then, multiply that number by six to estimate your breaths per minute. Next, try engaging in various forms of exercise. You can play a sport for a few minutes, run around the block, or perform some sit-ups or push-ups. After each activity, measure your breathing rate again. How much did it increase during exercise? Did one form of exercise cause a greater increase in your breathing rate compared to others?
  3. Have you ever considered the cleanliness of the air around you? The air you breathe daily plays a crucial role in your health. However, did you know that air pollution can make breathing more challenging and even lead to various health problems? Go online and explore the “Clean Air Detective.” Follow the instructions to conduct a basic investigation into the air you breathe regularly. What actions can you take to help create an environment with less air pollution? Brainstorm ideas with a friend or family member to come up with several solutions.

Sources of Wonder

  1. http://kidshealth.org/kid/cancer_center/HTBW/lungs.html
  2. http://www.lung.ca/lung-health/lung-info/how-your-lungs-work

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