- Updated on September 9, 2020
Proofread by Samson Hui Proofreader on July **, 2019
The normal respiratory rate in adults at rest is 12 breaths/min. Normal breathing is strictly characterized by three features: Nasal (in and out), mainly diaphragmatic (i.e., abdominal), slow (in frequency) and imperceptible (no feelings or sensation about one’s own breathing at rest; see the explanation below). Scroll down for values during exercise.
The physiological and medical norm for respiratory minute ventilation at rest is 6 liters per minute for a 70 kg man (see references for textbooks below: Guyton, 1984; Ganong, 1995; Straub, 1998; Castro, 2000; etc.). These textbooks also provide the following numbers for normal breathing at rest:
– normal TV (tidal volume or air volume breathed in during a single breath): 500 ml;
– normal Rf (respiratory frequency or respiratory rate): 12 breaths per minute;
– inspiration: about 1.5-2 seconds;
– normal exhalation is 1.5-2 seconds, followed by an automatic pause (no breathing for 1-2 seconds).
Respiratory Rate Chart (Graph)
This graph represents the normal-breathing pattern at rest or the dynamic of the lungs’ volume as a function of time. You can see that it corresponds to the normal breathing rate of 12 breaths per minute.
Warning. We cannot measure our own breathing frequency or respiratory rate since our breathing immediately changes once we pay attention to it. We breathe slower and deeper. Your result can be 2-3 times smaller than your real number during your basal-breathing pattern at rest (e.g., you will count 7 breaths/min, while your actual breathing rate is about 18-20 breaths/min). Hence, you can breathe faster than the normal respiration frequency, but your test can show that you breathe slower than the normal breathing frequency (12 breaths/min). This is a common mistake.
Other parameters of normal respiration
“If a person breath-holds after a normal exhale, it takes about 40 s before breathing commences” (McArdle et al, 2000). Hence, the normal breath-holding number (immediately after usual exhalation and after an exhale) is around 40 s. This indicates the normal oxygenation of cells and tissues.
The current medical norm for CO2 pressure in the alveoli of the lungs or arterial blood is 40 mm Hg. This number was established about one century ago by famous British physiologists Charles G. Douglas and John S. Haldane (Oxford University). Their results were published in 1909 in their article “The regulation of normal breathing”, Journal of Physiology (Douglas & Haldane, 1909).
What is known about other parameters of normal breathing? It is invisible (no chest or belly movements), regular, and inaudible (no panting, no wheezing, no sighing, no yawning, no sneezing, no coughing, no deep inhalations or exhalations).
Pediatric Respiratory Rate Chart
(Newborn, Toddlers, Infants, and Children)
(the source for this chart: Normal respiration rate for children; source: health.msn.com)
|Groups and ages||Normal rates|
|Newborns to 6 months old||30-60 breaths/min|
|6 to 12 months old||24–30 breaths/min|
|1 to 5 years old||20–30 breaths/min|
|6 to 12 years old||12–20 breaths/min|
Important note. Clinical evidence suggests that respiratory rates
in healthy children are near the lower limits or even below it.
Respiration rates and volumes during exercise
During physical exercise, respiratory rate depends on the individual and can vary from about 30 to 60 breaths per minute, while minute volume (ventilation) can range from about 50 to 100 liters per minute.
How to measure one’s own breathing at rest?
In order to define your breathing pattern, measure your body oxygenation or breath-holding time after your usual exhalation at rest, after 5-7 min of sitting. Do this test only until the first stress or discomfort. After doing this CP test, one can define their health state using the Buteyko Table of Health Zones.
The person with normal breathing is going to have about 40 s for the body oxygen test. In the case of chronic overbreathing, breath-holding time becomes shorter (see links to Tables and studies below).
Sick people have deep and fast breathing 24/7, as well as reduced body oxygenation (usually about 10-20 s of oxygen in tissues). In severely sick and critically ill patients, body oxygenation is below 10 s.
Dr. Buteyko, based on his studies of thousands of healthy and sick people, suggested different norms for breathing (e.g., Buteyko, 1991). What are his norms? For example, his normal respiration rate is only 8 breaths/min. Here are his numbers for normal breathing:
– normal minute ventilation: 4 l/min;
– normal tidal volume (air volume breathed in during a single breath): 500 ml;
– normal breathing rate or frequency: 8 breaths per minute;
– inspiration: about 1.5 seconds;
– exhalation: 2 seconds;
– automatic pause (or period of no breathing after exhalation): 4 seconds;
– breath-holding time (after usual exhalation and without any stress at the end of the test): 60 seconds;
– CO2 concentrations in the alveoli or arterial blood – 6.5% or about 46 mm Hg (at sea level).
If you share this page on one of your social networks, you will find out which exact and amazing physiological effects are commonly observed in people who breathe at rest and during sleep (that may take months or years to retrain). These details, which I also observed in dozens of my best breathing students, relate to very short natural sleep and other factors.
With over 60 s for the body oxygen test, people sleep for about 4 hours or
less. With 2-3 minutes, it is normal to sleep for 2 hours only (without trying),
painless childbirth (for females, of course), and the ability to digest many
other types of foods. These effects are explained in more detail on the page
about the Buteyko
Table of Health Zones
Buteyko KP, Method of voluntary elimination of deep breathing, Buteyko method [in Russian], in Buteyko method. Its application in medical practice, ed. by K.P. Buteyko, 2nd ed., 1991, Titul, Odessa, p.148-165.
Castro M. Control of breathing. In: Physiology, Berne RM, Levy MN (eds), 4th edition, Mosby, St. Louis, 1998.
Douglas CG, Haldane JS, The regulation of normal breathing, Journal of Physiology 1909; 38: p. 420–440.
Ganong WF, Review of medical physiology, 15th ed., 1995, Prentice Hall Int., London.
Guyton AC, Physiology of the human body, 6th ed., 1984, Suanders College Publ., Philadelphia.
McArdle W.D., Katch F.I., Katch V.L., Essentials of exercise physiology (2nd edition); Lippincott, Williams and Wilkins, London 2000.
Straub NC, Section V, The Respiratory System, in Physiology, eds. RM Berne & MN Levy, 4thedition, Mosby, St. Louis, 1998.
Summary of values useful in pulmonary physiology: man. Section: Respiration and Circulation, ed. by P.L. Altman & D.S. Dittmer, 1971, Bethesda, Maryland (Federation of American Societies for Experimental Biology).
– This page in Spanish: Frecuencia Respiratoria Normal, Volumen y Tabla.
– This page in German: Die normalen Atemparameter: Frequenz, Volumen in verschiedene Tabellen.
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