How Your Lungs Work

Transparent human chest showing heart and lungs
The heart and lungs work together to make sure your body has the oxygen-rich blood it needs. Callista Images/Getty Images

You breathe in and out anywhere from 15 to 25 times per minute without even thinking about it. When you exercise, your breathing rate goes up — again, without you thinking about it. You breathe so regularly that it is easy to take your lungs for granted. You can't even stop yourself from breathing if you try!

Lungs are the organs that help you breathe. They take a gas that your body needs to get rid of (carbon dioxide) and exchange it for a gas that your body can use (oxygen). They also work with your heart to make sure your body has the oxygen-rich blood it needs to function properly.


In this article, we will take a close look at how your lungs work and how they keep your body's cells supplied with oxygen and get rid of the carbon dioxide waste. We will explain some of the conditions and diseases that make breathing harder and cause the lungs to fail. We will also explain why you can't hold your breath for a long time and why you cough or hiccup.