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Difference Between Inhalation and Exhalation

Difference Between Inhalation and Exhalation

Breathing is a crucial process for body functioning which involves the intake of oxygen and releasing of carbon oxide. Both are considered to be an integral part of respiration. Inhalation and exhalation involve distinct airflow and muscle movement directions. The body grows healthily through these two processes, which, when hampered, can cause major trauma or illness that can risk life. Thus, it is important to understand the difference between inhalation and exhalation to live a healthy life.

Table of Contents:

  • What is Inhalation?
  • Importance of Inhalation
  • What is Exhalation?
  • Importance of Exhalation
  • Mechanism of Inhalation and Exhalation
  • Key Differences between Inhalation and Exhalation
  • Practice Problems
  • Frequently Asked Questions

What is Inhalation?

Inhalation involves breathing in oxygen. Inhalation, also termed inspiration, is a process of taking air into the lungs. It is the initial phase of respiration involving the diaphragm and intercostal muscles, which contract, allowing the lungs to expand, and the air flows through the trachea to the lungs. Inhalation is called an active process. 

The thoracic cavity enlarges simultaneously, resulting in the pressure difference between the atmosphere and the alveolus, allowing air to enter the lungs. Inhalation is an automated process that does not need deliberate effort or control but can be controlled or disrupted up to a certain point.

Unhealthy inhalation can result in several illnesses like respiratory disorders and dysfunction of the brain, heart and thus the body. The main purpose of inhalation is to provide oxygen to the body. Volatile organic compounds belong to the nutritions that come along with the inhalation process. These can be obtained through a distinct variety of food, drinks, fruits, supplements, etc., which is necessary daily for proper growth and development.

Importance of Inhalation

Inhalation is key to keeping you alive and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. The body can receive oxygen through the process normally to function well, and it provides numerous advantages, such as

  • Relief of pain
  • Remove toxins from the body
  • Allows muscles to relax
  • Improves breathing and restriction of respiratory disorders
  • Boosts the capacity of the lungs.

What is Exhalation?

Exhalation is the exact opposite of inhalation. It is also referred to as a natural and basically a passive process in which the body releases air in the form of carbon dioxide. It allows the letting out of air from the lungs and is a crucial step for the body to work efficiently. The chest may burst if the air is just inhaled due to the amount of pressure. Thus, exhalation is important to decrease pressure and prevent respiratory disorders like asthma and emphysema due to air stuck in the lungs. 

On the other hand, breathing out carbon dioxide is an important step for better metabolism and digestion. Exhalation involves the elimination of toxins produced throughout inhalation. Furthermore, exhalation involves enhanced blood circulation.

Importance of Exhalation

The exhalation process holds numerous benefits. They are as follows.

  • Removal of waste products along with carbon dioxide.
  • Regulates pH level of the body
  • For a steady oxygen supply throughout the body by creating space after removing unwanted gases.
  • Deeper exhale exercises soothe breathing, promote relaxation, activate the mind, decrease stress, provide better muscle strength, enhance oxygenation, and improve lung capacity.
  • Helps in preventing breathing issues.
  • Controlled slow exhalation activates the parasympathetic nervous system, which aids in the functioning of the nervous system either in fight or flight response.

Mechanism of Inhalation and Exhalation

When you inhale oxygen, numerous processes are involved during the inhalation. 

  • First, the diaphragm gets contracted, a dome-shaped organ, down to the lungs allowing more space for the lungs to expand while inhaling. When the lungs expand in the chest cavity, air pressure falls inside the body. 
  • Furthermore, the intercostal muscles contract between the ribs, allowing a shift in ribcage upwards and downward. 
  • This expansion results in chest opening, providing more space for lung expansion while inhaling. 
  • Thus, air flows through the mouth, moving through the trachea, the breathing pipe, and entering bronchial tubes to reach the lungs. 
  • Oxygen gets filtered from the inhaled air via alveoli, tiny air sacs, and then transported throughout the whole body. 

After the completion of the inhalation process, exhalation begins when the body exhales carbon dioxide; Diaphragm and intercostal muscles get back to a normal state and relax, while the lungs return to their normal size, thus resulting in an increment in the amount of pressure. The increased pressure releases carbon dioxide from the body, passing through the nose and mouth. The process does not involve consciousness and is often automated.

Key Differences between Inhalation and Exhalation



Active process

Passive process

Medical assistance is unnecessary.

Medical assistance is often required.

Absorbs oxygen

Release carbon dioxide

Chest cavity size increases.

Chest cavity size decreases.

Lungs expand. Nearby supporting organs contracts.

Lungs contract, and nearby organs get back to normal state.

Flattening and contraction of the diaphragm

The diaphragm returns to normal shape and relaxes.

Relief of pain and relaxation of muscles.

Helps to regulate the mechanism of the body, pH, and the body gets relaxed.

Air pressure inside the chest cavity is less.

Air pressure inside the chest cavity is more.

If facing an issue in inhaling, a person might die due to lack of oxygen supply.

If facing an issue in exhalation, the air gets stuck in, causes numerous respiratory disorders, and is risky for life.

Practice Problems

Q1. Respiration involves

A. Inhalation
B. Exhalation
C. Both a. and b.
D. None of the above

Ans. C. Both and b

Respiration involves two processes, i.e., inhalation and exhalation.

Q2. During inhalation, the absorbance of ____ takes place.

A. Oxygen
B. Carbon dioxide
C. All of the above
D. None of the above

Ans. A. Oxygen

During inhalation, oxygen's absorbance occurs.

Q3. Exhalation helps in

A. Relaxation of muscles
B. Maintain body pH balance
C. Increased blood circulation
D. All of the above

Ans. D. All of the above.

Exhalation plays a key role in regulating pH, body mechanisms and improving blood circulation of the body. 

Frequently Asked Questions

Q1. Do inhalation and exhalation work during sleep?
Answer : Inhalation and exhalation is an automated process. The body continues these two processes even when the person is unconscious (sleeping). If he struggles, it may get risky for their life.

Q2. What happens if the inhalation process becomes slow?
Answer : 
Slow Inhalation may affect your body mechanisms, like heart rate and blood pressure variations.

Q3. Is control on exhalation good?
Answer : 
Controlling both exhalations is helpful for your active blood circulation, stress management, proper supply of oxygen throughout the body, and muscle relaxation.

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