Minute Ventilation in Health and Disease

- Updated on December 9, 2021

Minute Ventilation in Health and Disease 1By Dr. Artour Rakhimov, Alternative Health Educator and Author

What is the norm of breathing? How many liters of air per minute should we breathe while sitting at rest? The physiological norm of minute ventilation can be found in many physiological and medical textbooks. It is about 6 liters per minute (Guyton, 1984; Ganong, 1995). So, let us keep in mind this important number: 6 liters of air per minute. Table 1.1 summarizes information about minute ventilation at rest in different diseased states.


*One row corresponds to one medical study/publication



N. of


Prevalence of CHVReference
Normal breathing6 l/min0 %Medical textbooks
Heart disease15 (±4) l/min22100%Dimopoulou et al, 2001
Heart disease16 (±2) l/min11100%Johnson et al, 2000
Heart disease12 (±3) l/min132100%Fanfulla et al, 1998
Heart disease15 (±4) l/min55100%Clark et al, 1997
Heart disease13 (±4) l/min15100%Banning et al, 1995
Heart disease15 (±4) l/min88100%Clark et al, 1995
Heart disease14 (±2) l/min30100%Buller et al, 1990
Heart disease16 (±6) l/min20100%Elborn et al, 1990
Pulm hypertension12 (±2) l/min11100%D’Alonzo et al, 1987
Cancer12 (±2) l/min40100%Travers et al, 2008
Diabetes12-17 l/min26100%Bottini et al, 2003
Diabetes15 (±2) l/min45100%Tantucci et al, 2001
Diabetes12 (±2) l/min8100%Mancini et al, 1999
Diabetes10-20 l/min28100%Tantucci et al, 1997
Diabetes13 (±2) l/min20100%Tantucci et al, 1996
Asthma13 (±2) l/min16100%Chalupa et al, 2004
Asthma15 l/min8100%Johnson et al, 1995
Asthma14 (±6) l/min39100%Bowler et al, 1998
Asthma13 (±4) l/min17100%Kassabian et al, 1982
Asthma12 l/min101100%McFadden et al, 1968
COPD14 (±2) l/min12100%Palange et al, 2001
COPD12 (±2) l/min10100%Sinderby et al, 2001
COPD14 l/min3100%Stulbarg et al, 2001
Sleep apnoea15 (±3) l/min20100%Radwan et al, 2001
Liver cirrhosis11-18 l/min24100%Epstein et al, 1998
Hyperthyroidism15 (±1) l/min42100%Kahaly, 1998
Cystic fibrosis*13 (±2) l/min10100%Bell et al, 1996
Cystic fibrosis11-14 l/min6100%Tepper et al, 1983
Epilepsy13 l/min12100%Esquivel et al, 1991
CHV13 (±2) l/min134100%Han et al, 1997
Panic disorder12 (±5) l/min12100%Pain et al, 1991
Bipolar disorder11 (±2) l/min16100%MacKinnon et al, 2007
Dystrophia myotonica16 (±4) l/min12100%Clague et al, 1994

Table 1.1 Minute ventilation of patients with different health problems.

Table 1.1 comments:

  • 1. There are many dozens of other medical investigations into minute ventilation of patients with chronic heart failure, which show similar results to those listed above. (The reason for this is the commonness of this health problem among people and the popularity of the stress-exercise test for heart patients among respiration researchers). Here I have quoted only the results of some typical recent studies.
  • 2. “COPD” means chronic obstructive pulmonary disease.
  • 3. Sometimes, measurement of ventilation produces results, which are smaller than in real conditions. This can happen when the test interferes with the normal breathing pattern, such as when the experiment involves the use of facial masks. Since it is harder to breathe through them, these masks reduce minute ventilation. Breathing through a mouthpiece also leads to breathing less air than in reality. Another effect is connected with bodyweight: people of a lighter weight need less air, as they normally have lower metabolic rates. All these effects should be taken into account when analyzing experimental results. For example, in the quoted study (Bell et al, 1996) patients with cystic fibrosis had minute ventilation of 10.4+-1.4 l/min. Not only were they wearing masks during measurement, but also the average weight of these people was 56.5 kg. Hence, the quoted minute ventilation would probably be equivalent to about 15 l/min for typical adults.
  • 4. Similarly, weight should be taken into account when analyzing the minute ventilation of children. For example, it was reported that 12 children with epilepsy had average minute ventilation of almost 8 l/min (Esquivel et al, 1991). Their average weight was 43 kg, which corresponds to about 12-15 l/min for adults with normal weights, therefore indicating hyperventilation. Numerous other studies also found evidence of hyperventilation in patients with this health condition.

Note, that virtually all tested patients with chronic heart failure over-breathe.

Minute Ventilation in Health and Disease 2

The same was true for these limited studies in relation to diabetes, asthma, and other disorders. However, more experiments are required for these and other health problems in order to be certain about the existing links between breathing and diseases.

It is normal, that such studies can find the prevalence of over-breathing in investigated subjects. A few health conditions where patients breathe less than the norm will be considered below.

Now we can conclude that many sick people breathe too much.

What about breathing rates in modern healthy subjects? This table comprises 14 published medical studies. We see that healthy subjects breathe about 6-7 l/min at rest.

Table. Minute ventilation (or minute breathing rates) at rest in healthy subjects (14 studies)



N. of


Normal breathing6 l/minMedical textbooks
Healthy subjects7.7 ± 0.3 l/min19Douglas et al, 1982
Healthy males8.4 ± 1.3 l/min10Burki, 1984
Healthy males6.3 l/min10Smits et al, 1987
Healthy males6.1±1.4 l/min6Fuller et al, 1987
Healthy subjects6.1± 0.9 l/min9Tanaka et al, 1988
Healthy students7.0 ± 1.0 l/min10Turley et al, 1993
Healthy subjects6.6 ± 0.6 l/min10Bengtsson et al, 1994
Healthy subjects7.0±1.2 l/min12Sherman et al, 1996
Healthy subjects7.0±1.2 l/min10Bell et al, 1996
Healthy subjects6 ± 1 l/min7Parreira et al, 1997
Healthy subjects7.0 ± 1.1 l/min14Mancini et al, 1999
Healthy subjects6.6 ± 1.1 l/min40Pinna et al, 2006
Healthy subjects6.7 ± 0.5 l/min17Pathak et al, 2006
Healthy subjects6.7 ± 0.3 l/min14Gujic et al, 2007


We can also consider historical changes in breathing rates for normal subjects.

Table 3. Historical changes in minute ventilation

(or minute breathing rates) at rest for normal subjects



AgeN. of


Normal breathing6 l/min16Medical textbooks
Normal subjects4.95Griffith et al, 1929
Normal males5.3±0.127-4346Shock et al, 1939
Normal females4.6±0.127-4340Shock et al, 1939
Normal subjects6.9±0.9100Matheson et al, 1950
Normal subjects9.1±4.531±711Kassabian et al, 1982
Normal subjects8.1±2.142±1411D’Alonzo et al, 1987
Normal subjects6.3±2.212Pain et al, 1988
Normal males13±340 (av.)12Clague et al, 1994
Normal subjects9.2±2.534±713Radwan et al, 1995
Normal subjects15±428-3412Dahan et al, 1995
Normal subjects12±455±1043Clark et al, 1995
Normal subjects12±241±210Tantucci et al, 1996
Normal subjects*11±353±1124Clark et al, 1997
Normal subjects8.1±0.434±263Meessen et al. 1997
Normal females9.920-2823Han et al, 1997
Normal males1520-2847Han et al, 1997
Normal females1029-6042Han et al, 1997
Normal males1129-6242Han et al, 1997
Normal subjects13±336±610Tantucci et al, 1997
Normal subjects12±165±210Epstein et al, 1996
Normal subjects12±112-6920Bowler et al, 1998
Normal subjects10±639±420DeLorey et al, 1999
Normal seniors12±470±314DeLorey et al, 1999
Normal elderly*14±388±211DeLorey et al, 1999
Normal subjects17±141±215Tantucci et al, 2001
Normal subjects10±0.510Bell et al, 2005
Normal subjects8.5±1.230±869Narkiewicz, 2006
Normal females10±0.411Ahuja et al, 2007
Normal subjects12±262±220Travers et al, 2008

Extract from Dr. Artour Rakhimov's Amazon book "Normal Breathing: The Key to Vital Health", also available in PDF.