What is the Difference Between Breathing and Respiration

Breathing and Respiration
Both respiration and breathing are required for living organisms. Usually, respiration and breathing are considered same. However, there is a great difference between respiration and breathing.


This is a constant process, that takes place constantly through out the day. This is a process of inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide.


In this process, body breaks down oxygen to distribute to the cells in the body which use oxygen. This is a part of metabolic process. This is also called

catabolic process

of cellular activity. In this process, energy is released during the production of carbon dioxide and oxygen.

Respiration is a chemical process while breathing is a physical process. In the process of breathing, oxygen is taken into lungs and during respiration process, oxygen is taken from lungs into cells or into blood stream.

Respiration is a process which takes place between cells, whereas breathing is an exchange of gases between external environment and cells. Breathing involves 2 stages: Gas exchange and ventilation.

  • Gas exchange:

    In this process, oxygen is absorbed from the lungs and carbon dioxide is released.

  • Ventilation:

    This is the movement of air to and fro the lungs.

In respiration, a single process exists. Energy is produced and carbon dioxide and water is eliminated from cells or blood stream.

Breathing is a voluntary action whereas respiration is involuntary action. Breathing does not involve any conversion, while respiration is a mechanical and an active process which involves conversion of chemical energy into other forms.

Breathing may be controlled and respiration cannot be controlled. Example: An individual can take fast and slow or deep and shallow breaths. As respiration occurs in tissues and cells, it cannot controlled like breathing.

Although, respiration and breathing are two varied processes, both the words are used interchangeably by most people. When an individual is given oxygen artificially, it is called

artificial breathing

, but not

artificial respiration

. Sometimes, breathing is referred to as

external respiration

and respiration is called cellular or internal respiration.

1 response to What is the Difference Between Breathing and Respiration

  1. The respiratory system is basically composed of tubes ( Trachea down to the terminal bronchiole) and alveolo-capillary unit ( respiratory bronchiole and alveoli). The tubes allows the movement of air during VENTILATION ( inhalation and exhilation due to diaphragm normally ). RESPIRATION means gas exchange so it happens in the alveolo-capillary unit ( External respiration ), in the systemic circulation between capillary and the cell ( Internal respiration ) and Cellular respiration ( where Oxygen together with sugar (Glucose) are catabolyzed in the mitochondria to form ATP. The waste is CO2 & water. But CO2 & water reacts to form carbonic acid and further dissociate into bicarbonates. This is what we call buffer system in the vascular system. BREATHING maybe the combined effect of ventilation & respiration? Technical description of breathing is short of its meaning.

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