Breathing is usually an unconscious process. However, there are some optimal ways to breathe.
This article looks at what happens inside a person’s body when they breathe.
It also provides some tips and exercises for improving breathing efficiency. These are suitable for people with respiratory conditions and those without them.
What happens when a person breathes?
Share on PinterestBreathing through the nose may make the lungs work more efficiently.
Breathing, or respiration, is a complex process of air exchange that involves the following parts of the body:
- The lungs: These are a pair of spongy organs that sit on either side of the chest. The lungs expand when a person breathes in and contract when they breathe out. Each lung is surrounded by a thin membrane called the pleura, which protects the lung and allows it to slide back and forth during breathing.
- The diaphragm: This is a thin muscle that sits beneath the lungs and above the abdominal cavity. Its up-and-down movement helps the lungs contract and expand.
- The intercostal muscles: These are muscles that run between the ribs. They assist breathing by helping the chest cavity expand and contract.
The lungs, diaphragm, and intercostal muscles work together to allow a person to breathe.
To breathe in, the diaphragm contracts and moves downward. This increases the space in the chest cavity, allowing the lungs to expand and fill with air.
To breathe out, the diaphragm relaxes, reducing the space in the chest cavity. This causes the lungs to deflate and let out the air.
What is the correct way to breathe?
Although breathing is a natural process, some people may be surprised to learn that there is a right and a wrong way to breathe.
The American Lung Association (ALA) provide the following advice on how to breathe correctly.
Use the nose
Breathing through the nose can slow the breath and make the lungs work more efficiently. It also facilitates the intake of nitric oxide, which helps with oxygen transportation throughout the body.
Breathing through the nose also allows the nostrils to:
- filter toxins and allergens from the air, thereby preventing them from entering the body
- warm air that is too cold
- humidify air that is too dry