Panting Vs. Deep Breathing: The Showdown

Dustin Ebner

 

Humans breathe close to 19,000 liters of air a day!  But only 18% of the air is oxygen that is absorbed by the human lungs.             Oxygen absorption in the lungs is a crucially important aspect of life.  Without oxygen, humans would cease to exist on earth. The goal of this research was to determine whether panting or deep breathing would result in the highest net volume of air intake.  By determining which technique allowed more air into the lungs, I would then be able to make predictions about which technique would result in the most oxygen absorption.  I hypothesized that the total net volume of air intake from taking deep breaths would be greater than the total net volume of air intake from panting because more air was being forced in and out of the lungs when an individual was taking long deep breaths than if one was panting.

To test this hypothesis I measured the flow rate of air into the lungs when an individual was panting and when an individual was taking deep breaths over a period of 20 seconds.  Using LoggerPro software, I converted flow rate into volume to determine the total net volume of air for each breathing technique.  I ran six trials, having the first three participants breathe deep and then pant, and the last 3 participants pant and then breathe deep to control for any order effects and individual variation in lung volume.  Other experimental controls were age, sex, height and weight. 

My results were inconsistent with my hypothesis and indicate that the total net volume of air when an individual was panting was much higher than the total net volume of air when an individual was taking slow deep breaths.  The total net volume of air intake while a person was panting for 20 seconds was 35.2 L, which was significantly higher compared to a person who was taking deep breathes with a total net volume of air intake of 24.7 L (p = 0.002).

One potential problem with my experiment was that I did not ask the individuals if they had any lung problems such as asthma, which would allow for less net volume intake.  Previous studies have shown that deep breathing maximizes the rate of oxygen uptake if oxygen absorption is a linear function of time, and alternatively, if oxygen absorption saturates with time, panting is best.  From the results of my experiment I propose an alternative hypothesis.  By panting, an individual has a greater net volume of air intake than they would by taking deep breaths.  Pumping less air in and out of the lungs at a faster rate (panting) means that more oxygen is being put into the blood stream to generate energy.  It is important to determine the best breathing techniques because oxygen is a pivotal part of life and if the human body does not have enough of it the human race will come to a nasty end.