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Normal Respiratory Frequency and Ideal Breathing

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Definition. Respiratory rate (also known as ventilation rate, respiration rate, breathing rate, pulmonary ventilation rate, breathing frequency, and respiratory frequency or Rf) = the number of breaths a person takes during one minute. It is usually measured at rest, while sitting.

Medical research suggests that respiration rate is the marker of pulmonary dysfunction. Patients breathe more often at rest with advance of a large number of chronic health conditions. This website has scientific references related to increased respiratory rates for adults with cancer patients, cystic fibrosis, heart disease, asthma, diabetes, COPD and many other conditions.

What is the normal respiratory frequency?

Normal respiratory rate graphMedical textbooks suggest that the normal respiratory rate for adults is only 12 breaths per minute at rest. Older textbooks often provide even smaller values (e.g., 8-10 breaths per minute). Most modern adults breathe much faster (about 15-20 breaths per minute) than their normal breathing frequency. The respiratory rates in the sick persons are usually higher, generally about 20 breaths/min or more. This site quotes numerous studies that testify that respiratory rates in terminally sick people with cancer, HIV-AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other conditions is usually over 30 breaths/min.

Warning signImportant note. You cannot define your own breathing rate by simply counting it. As soon as you try it, your breathing will be more deep and slow. You can ask other people to count it, when you are unaware about your breathing, or you can record your breathing using sensitive microphones fixed near your nose at night or when you sit quietly and are busy with some other activities. It is also possible to define your breathing frequency by asking other people to count the number of your breathing cycles during one minute when you are sleeping. (During sleep the respiratory frequency remains about the same as during wakeful states at rest, but the tidal volume or amplitude of breathing is reduced.)

What are the effects of increased respiratory rates?

When we breathe more than the medical norm, we lose CO2 and reduce body oxygenation due to vasoconstriction and the suppressed Bohr effect caused by hypocapnia (CO2 deficiency). Hence, overbreathing leads to reduced cell oxygenation, while slower and easier breathing (with lower respiratory rates) improves cell-oxygen content.

Normal pediatric respiratory rate for infants, newborn, toddlers, and children

(the source for this pediatric table is provided in references)
Groups of children Their ages Normal respiration rates
Newborns and infants Up to 6 months old 30-60 breaths/min
Infants 6 to 12 months old 24-30 breaths/min
Toddlers and children 1 to 5 years old 20-30 breaths/min
Children 6 to 12 years 12-20 breaths/min

More about respiratory frequency and body oxygenation

From physiological viewpoint, the body-oxygen test is a more meaningful and important DIY test, than one's breathing frequency. If you have less than 20 s of oxygen in the morning (when you wake up), you are likely to have health problems.

Ideal Respiration Rate

The ideal respiration frequency at rest for maximum possible brain- and body-oxygen levels corresponds to the automatic or unconscious breathing with only X breaths/min (find out this exact number X in the bonus content).

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Resources and further info:
- Mouth Breathing in Children, Babies, Toddlers, and Infants: Its causes, effects, treatment, and prevention: This web page will help you to naturally slow down the breathing of your children
- Ideal breathing pattern
- Normal respiration rates for children (from Healthwise - health.msn.com)

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