Understanding the Body’s Use of Oxygen during Exercise

Understanding the Body’s Use of Oxygen during Exercise

Your muscles need oxygen in order to function. Every single cell within an exercising body requires the element in order to convert sugars into energy.

Consuming Oxygen for Energy

During exercise, your body demands more oxygen. This process often happens through heavier breathing, and when the working load becomes too difficult to endure, your body stops but the breathing still continues. In order to function, the cells and muscles in your body need a source of energy called ATP; this abbreviation stands for adenosine triphosphate. The molecule actually contains 4 separate parts that work to convert blood sugar into energy for your muscles.

Through breathing, the oxygen in every breath of air gets filtered through your lungs, transporting blood rich in oxygen into the body. The muscles that you exercise receive the blood and absorb the oxygen; each individual cell absorbs oxygen molecules. The muscle cells push out the carbon dioxide filled blood into the blood stream which travels to the heart while ATP gets taken in by the working muscles. Your heart then pushes the blood back to the lungs which exhale the carbon dioxide out into the air.

This revolving cycle or process continues through all exercise activities. Breathing serves as an involuntary function, one that continues unless you purposely stop it from taking place. You will notice how the body automatically adjusts your breathing during vigorous physical activity to accommodate the energy needs of your body and its working muscles.

Understanding Other Ideas

Running, lifting weights or performing any form of exercise at a slow to moderate tempo generally causes smaller fluctuations in oxygen needs than those involving challenging more vigorous activities. Every human body has the ability to store a maximum amount of oxygen at once. The maximum level, called the VO2Max, actually becomes limited because the muscles demand more oxygen than what your heart has the ability to provide.

In basic terms, the supply of oxygen provided and controlled by the blood pumping process in the heart limits your body's ability to maintain a constant and extra high level of muscle energy. This makes sense when you think about animals with much larger heart sizes. For example, a blue whale needs much more oxygen rich blood in order to support its muscle mass and energy consumption through physical activity like swimming.

The environment directly affects the oxygen supply that remains needed during exercise. Extremely cold conditions often limit lung capacity. This happens even while your muscles continue to work equally or harder than they do in warm conditions. Since your body does not receive enough oxygen, exercising in very cold conditions becomes more difficult.

Elevated conditions in which the air supply contains less oxygen molecules also limits your ability to perform vigorous exercise.

Basic Understanding

  • Muscles require energy in order to function. Exercise greatly increases your muscles' energy requirements.
  • Your muscles gain the required level of energy through the consumption of oxygen. Breathing allows your body to intake oxygen and convert blood sugars, also known as glucose, into muscle feeding energy known as ATP.
  • Without oxygen, your body would not be able to function and muscle movement becomes limited quickly.