Breathing difficulties when running

Anyone who is a keen runner will know that when out running it can sometimes be difficult to pull in enough oxygen to meet the demands their body is asking. Although this type of breathing difficulty is usually associated with someone who is out of shape, it can indicate a more serious problem if you are in shape and could be medically related.  It doesn’t matter whether you are a beginner to running or an expert runner, breathing difficulties can occur regardless of your age or weight.

Body process

When out running the most critical factor to ensure the body functions correctly is the respiratory system. In fact, whenever the body undergoes any form of physical exercise, the muscles require a significant amount of oxygen in order for them to function properly. For this to work our respiratory system has to work that much harder. Air is pulled into the body through the mouth or nose and then flows down the airways into the lungs. Once this air enters the lungs it then gets exchanged for carbon dioxide. After this final exchange the oxygen is then transported through the body to various muscles and organs, and the carbon dioxide is exhaled. Breathing problems can be caused by a number of problems in the lungs or airway passages.

Exercise induced asthma

Many runners will know exactly what exercise induced asthma is. This affects the airways and causes problems breathing.  This condition is caused when the airways tighten which in turn produces increased mucus. While out running when an exercise induced asthma episode occurs the runner will typically start wheezing, coughing and experience chest pain with every breath taken. As the asthma progresses, it becomes increasingly more difficult for the runner to catch their breath.

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease

Also known as COPD, this condition is a combination of a few different lung diseases, which makes breathing an extremely difficult task. Emphysema, chronic bronchitis and chronic asthmatic bronchitis are the three main conditions known as COPD. Anyone who suffers from COPD will have such difficulty breathing even when not exercising or doing any form of physical activity. However, if someone attempts to run with this condition they will significantly increase the symptoms of COPD.

Anyone who suffers from breathing difficulties and wants to improve running performance should always consult a GP or physician before attempting any form of physical exercise including running.


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