Breathe In, Breathe Out


I remember in middle school the first I ever ran the mile my gym teacher told me to try to control my breathing by breathing in through my nose and breathing out through my mouth. I never really understood why I was supposed to do that or even if it was the right way because I always struggled when I had to run a lot and lost my breath even when I was breathing the "right" way. I decided I want to look into the right way of breathing while running to see if there even is a right way or is it just preference.

 A study done by Rob Wood at the American College of Sports Medicine was done to see whether it was better to breathe through the mouth or better to breathe through the nose. The way they did this study was by putting together a sample of 14 moderately trained males and females to have them run on a treadmill with increasing difficulty and using oral breathing as the control group. They forced the control group to breath through their mouths by using a nose clip to prevent them from using their nose and they taped the variable group by taping their mouth shut so that they were forced to breathe through their nose. The way they measured the effectiveness of each method was by open circuit spirometry, which is a way to measure air capacity of the lungs. By running these tests they were able to measure four different variables, max oxygen intake, exercise ventilation, arterial oxygen saturation, and the rate of perceived breathing. The results showed that there wasn't much difference in the method of breathing between oral and nasal in three out of the four variables. The only variable that there was a significant difference was exercise ventilation, which differed about 35% in favor of oral breathing. The reason why this happened is simply because the mouth can take in more air than the nose. The results concluded that there wasn't enough difference in the variables to link positively say which one is favorable which led Rob Wood to believe that there were other variables that affected arterial oxygen saturation.

After going through Rob Wood's study I came to the conclusion that is there is no specific right or wrong way to breathe while running as long as your getting sufficient amount of oxygen. It is up to preference and how your body is trained to breathe, however breathing through the mouth does get more oxygen into your body so it might be a preferred method when we are running out of breath and need more oxygen fast.


As an experienced long distance runner I have found that while performing strenuous exercise, breathing out of the mouth as well as the nose is most effective. There are certainly benefits to breathing solely out of the nose, however, particularly when relaxing as opposed to physical activity. The method I was taught by my cross country coaches involved breathing steadily through the nose until filling up your lungs with air, holding it for a few seconds, and exhaling entirely through the mouth. This method of deep breathing is both a muscle relaxing technique and you can actually train yourself to breath more efficiently. Such deep breaths cause an expansion of the stomach, giving it the name diaphragmatic breathing. Here's the wikipedia link if you're interested in learning more about what I believe to be the most effective method of breathing:

It would be interesting to see if there is a study that shows the effectiveness of your nose and mouth working together like your couch suggested. that might turn out to be the most efficient way to breath. Im also willing to bet that lung capacity has a major impact on a runners ability to be at their best.

This article was really interesting to me because I was a long distance runner and high school, and always had to deal with trying to figure out the best way to breathe so that I could avoid getting cramps. I definitely was most often told that I should breathe in through my nose, and out through my mouth, so it's pretty surprising to learn that it doesn't matter either way. The study seems like it was very well conducted, and measured conclusive variables. The only difference that may have helped was having a larger and more varied group of people to study, because I do think that different forms of breathing can be more or less helpful for people of different body types.

I find this quite shocking that breathing through the nose or mouth have the same outcome because I have always been told by coaches that breathing through your nose gave you a shorter recovery time. I would also be curious if the different age groups would produce different results for this study.

This is a really interesting post and the study you reference is pretty cool as well. It’s kind of disappointing to think that there is no one optimal technique that we could use when running in order to get the right amount of oxygen in us but I guess as long as we’re making sure that we get enough oxygen in general, like you were saying that should be okay. I actually found a different study that goes into seeing the difference between “chest breathing” as compared to “belly breathing” and it’s pretty interesting. Check it out!

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