Relationship Between Heart Rate & Breathing Rate

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Your body normally uses oxygen to produce energy, with this oxygen supplied via your bloodstream. This results in a direct, positive relationship between your heart, breathing and physical activity rates. However, your physical activity rate can exceed your maximum heart and breathing rates. This results in the short-term production of energy without oxygen. By combining aerobic and anaerobic activities, you can greatly increase your strength, stamina, training gains and cardiorespiratory fitness.

Heart and Breathing Rates

Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. Depending on your age and level of physical fitness, a normal resting pulse ranges from 60 to 80 beats per minute. Your breathing rate is measured in a similar manner, with an average resting rate of 12 to 20 breaths per minute. Both your pulse and breathing rate increase with exercise, maintaining a ratio of approximately 1 breath for every 4 heartbeats.

Breathing and Physical Activity

Physical activity increases your body's energy requirements. The most efficient way to meet these needs involves the use of oxygen to break down glucose. Your body uses one glucose and six oxygen molecules to produce 36 ATP, a usable source of energy. This process also produces six water and six carbon dioxide molecules. To ensure that you are eliminating carbon dioxide and supplying oxygen quickly enough to meet these increasing needs, your breathing rate increases as you exercise.

Heart Rate and Physical Activity

The oxygen that you breathe in, and the carbon dioxide that you breathe out, travel through your body via your bloodstream. Oxygen is delivered throughout your body as your blood moves away from your heart, with carbon dioxide picked up in the returning blood. As such, blood needs to cycle through your body at a faster rate when you exercise to ensure that you are producing adequate amounts of ATP.

Aerobic and Anaerobic Exercise

During vigorous exercise, such as sprinting and weight training, your body's energy production exceeds the amount of oxygen that you are able to breathe in. This is also known as anaerobic exercise, as your body can briefly produce small amounts of ATP without oxygen. Such activities increase your strength and stamina, while aerobic activities are associated with an overall increase in cardiovascular and respiratory fitness.

A combination of aerobic and anaerobic exercises is a great way to meet the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's recommendation of 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity aerobic activity per week. By performing brief sprints throughout a daily jog, for example, you can gain the benefits of both types of exercise while reducing the amount of time you need to spend on exercise each week.