By Dr. Artour Rakhimov - Last updated on August 9, 2018
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?
suggest that the normal
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
numerous studies that testify that respiratory rates in terminally sick people
with cancer, HIV-AIDS, cystic fibrosis and other conditions is usually over 30
Important 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.
(the source for this pediatric table is provided in references)
Groups of children
Normal respiration rates
Newborns and infants
Up to 6 months old
6 to 12 months old
Toddlers and children
1 to 5 years old
6 to 12 years
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
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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