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Did you ever ask the question ‘what is the difference between respiration and breathing’? Or do you belong to the group of people who think they are one and the same? 

Some people may even think that respiration is a biological term used for breathing and the term ‘breathing’ is used by laypeople like us. 

Today we are here to address this very question, ‘what is the difference between respiration and breathing’? But before jumping directly to the differences, let us first understand the definition and what exactly happens in each process, and finally, we will learn about the differences. 


It is a voluntary biophysical process of the body. It is a process of inhaling and exhaling air through our lungs

The muscles in the ribcage contract which makes the diaphragm flattens and contract. 

This increases the volume of the ribcage thereby decreasing the pressure. 

In our body, there is an optimal pressure that is maintained at all times. Even the blood pressure has to be in a certain range for it to be considered normal for our body. The same goes for air pressure.

To maintain this air pressure, the air is inhaled. The work of our lungs start here, they take up oxygen from the inhaled air. 

The lungs via the bloodstream send the oxygen molecules to different cells

The cells use up oxygen and produce carbon dioxide. The carbon dioxide is then transported to the lungs through the blood. 

Here, the muscles in the ribcage start relaxing. The diaphragm moves to its initial position. 

This decreases the volume of the rib cage and increases the pressure. 

As mentioned earlier, to maintain a proper range of certain pressure, the inhaled air is exhaled out.

The carbon dioxide is removed with the exhaled air. Breathing is also known as ventilation. 

The process of respiration begins when oxygen molecules reach cells. 


It is an involuntary and biochemical action that takes place in cells. 

Glucose is converted into carbon dioxide and water in the presence of oxygen. 

This process produces energy in the form of ATP that is required by the body for various activities such as movement, sleeping, working, walking, etc. 

It is of two types – aerobic and anaerobic respiration.

In aerobic respiration, in the presence of oxygen, glucose is converted into carbon dioxide and water along with the release of energy. 

This process takes place in the mitochondria of cells. 

In anaerobic respiration, the electron acceptors are used instead of oxygen molecules. 

Here, the glucose is converted into carbon dioxide and ethanol or lactic acid in the presence of an electron acceptor (other than oxygen). 

This process is used in alcohol and lactic acid fermentation and in the fermentation of a wide range of food. 

It generates less energy than aerobic respiration. 

When we exercise for long or when we go for exercises which are extreme, our body gets tired and our muscles start paining. 

It is because of the accumulation of lactic acid in muscles. 

Anaerobic respiration takes place even when there is insufficient amounts of oxygen. 

Differences between Breathing and Respiration

Breathing is a voluntary and biophysical process whereas respiration is an involuntary and biochemical process. 

Breathing involves inhaling oxygen and exhaling carbon dioxide. Respiration includes breaking down of glucose to water and carbon dioxide. 

Breathing happens in the lungs and respiration takes place in the cells.

Energy is not produced during breathing (instead the energy is utilized) and energy is produced in respiration. 

Breathing takes place outside the cells, respiration takes place inside the cells (in mitochondria).

Enzymes don’t play any role in breathing whereas a lot of enzymes are used in respiration. 

Breathing takes place in respiratory organs and respiration takes place in cellular processes. 

Breathing is a diffusion process whereas respiration is an oxidative process. 

Breathing has two parts – inspiration and expiration and respiration has two parts – glycolysis and Krebs cycle. 

The below table covers the differences between respiration and breathing in a concise manner. 

It is a voluntary processIt is an involuntary process
It is a biophysical processIt is a biochemical process
It is an extracellular processIt is an intracellular process
No role of enzymes in breathingEnzymes play a key role in respiration
It is a diffusion processIt is an oxidative process
It happens in respiratory organs such as the nose, lungs, etc. It takes place in mitochondria of each and every cell of our body
No energy is producedDepending on the type of respiration, different amounts of energy are produced
It takes place in the lungsIt takes place in cells
Breathing has two parts – inhalation and exhalationRespiration contains two parts – glycolysis and Krebs cycle

Today, we discussed and discovered how different breathing and respiration are and there are in no way synonymous with each other. But it has to be remembered that respiration and breathing are interlinked. 

We are hopeful that we answered your question – what is the difference between respiration and breathing. If you want to learn more such differences, keep browsing the category. 

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