Oxygen use during exercise | NevadaAppeal.com

Oxygen use during exercise

Jerry Vance
For the Appeal

Think about the air you breathe, how you count on it to help you exercise. Learning how to best use that air within an exercise program is important to strengthen lungs and to maintain a strong heart.

Lungs are important for any sport or exercise, but especially important during aerobic exercise. The harder you work and the more you use your lungs, the more you use the blood vessels in the lungs, and the more capillaries you develop to help feed your hard-working body. All of these factors interact to build and maintain aerobic endurance.

The body’s pulmonary system performs a complicated network of steps to accomplish the task of filling the blood with oxygen and removing unwanted carbon dioxide. When you breathe in, the oxygen in that breath travels down the trachea and into the primary bronchi. Imagine it as the first branch of a tree.

From there, the oxygenated air passes through smaller divisions of bronchi called secondary and tertiary bronchi. They in turn pass the air into bronchioles and finally end in the air sacs or alveoli of the lungs. If you keep imagining that tree and its branches that become smaller and smaller, ending in the final leaf, you will have the mental picture of the inside of your lungs.

It is here between the alveoli and capillaries in the walls of the alveoli that the oxygen in the air is extracted and exchanged for carbon dioxide. Now your newly oxygenated blood travels through pulmonary veins into the left atrium of the heart to be used by muscle tissue for extended aerobic energy. The carbon dioxide is removed from your body via the same passageway system that brought in the oxygenated air.

It’s an easy, simple system, and if any small part of this system breaks down, the effect is felt in lack of endurance, overheating, lack of coordination and even dizziness. Smoking, inhalant irritants, bronchial infections and asthma are just a few of the factors that may cut down your intake of oxygen for your aerobic workout. When this happens, your body does not have enough fuel to continue running efficiently.

You can help your body make better use of its needed oxygen by exercising, thus increasing capillary capacity in the lungs.

Be aware of breathing limitations and be cautious coming back to your aerobic sport after a respiratory infection. Allergies present a constant problem during the winter with mold buildup and heavy use of wood-burning stoves. Talk to your doctor about learning to live with or correct any breathing difficulty you detect.

• Jerry Vance is owner of The Sweat Shop/Wet Sweat. She offers classes through Carson City Recreation and Aquatics Center and is a fitness instructor for the Senior Center.