Difference Between Breathing and Respiration

Breathing vs Respiration

More often people misunderstand as breathing is the same as respiration, but those are two interrelated and different physiological processes. Breathing occurs first and respiration takes place after that. The places at which these two processes take place are different as well as the pathways of breathing and respiration are distinctive. Therefore, it is very important to discuss the differences in detail about respiration and breathing in animals.


Breathing is the process of taking oxygen into and expelling carbon dioxide from the body. Breathing is essential for life as it supplies oxygen to release energy from food via respiration. Additionally, it removes carbon dioxide, which is a waste product of respiration. In addition, breathing removes excess water from the body through exhalation. Breathing is a physical process consisting of inhalation, exhalation, and relaxation. Inhalation is an active process while exhalation is passive. Breathing involves two stages known as ventilation and gas exchange. Ventilation is the movement of the air in and out of the lungs. Gas exchange takes place in the alveoli of the lungs. Two things happen during gas exchange; oxygen goes into blood and carbon dioxide diffuses out into lungs. Breathing is a voluntary action, which the animal can control. However, animals do not always voluntarily breathe, but involuntary process is ever happening as the centers in the brainstem automatically regulate the breathing.


Respiration is the process of breaking down oxygen in the cellular level to produce energy. It is an active process, which occurs in the cellular level. Respiration uses oxygen to produce energy and produces carbon dioxide and water as waste products. It is a metabolic process, which is taking place in the cells, where glucose from food reacts with oxygen from breathing, to produce biochemical energy in the form of Adenosine triphosphate (ATP). This energy is extremely useful to perform all the biological processes. In addition to glucose, amino acids and fatty acids are also commonly used nutrients for respiration with cellular oxygen. Water, ammonia, and carbon dioxide are waste products of respiration. Mostly water and carbon dioxide move out of the body via breathing, while ammonia excretes with urine. Respiration is an involuntary process, which the animal cannot control. However, respiration could be either aerobic or anaerobic. Aerobic respiration involves oxygen in the process, whereas there is no oxygen involved in anaerobic process.

What’s the difference between Breathing and Respiration?

These two important processes have remarkable differences as listed below.

• A main difference is that breathing is a mechanical process, but respiration is a chemical process.

• Breathing is mainly the bulk exchange of gases in and out of the body, while respiration is the process of breaking down of nutrients with oxygen to produce energy.

• Breathing occurs between body and external environment, whereas respiration takes place in cellular level.

• Breathing involves both active and passive processes, but respiration is only an active process.

• Breathing is both voluntary and involuntary, while respiration is always an involuntary process.

• Respiration produces energy and waste products, but nothing except gas exchange in breathing