What is the respiratory rate for adults?

Do you ever find yourself wondering how many breaths per minute you take, or what a “normal” respiratory rate is? Fear not! This article will give you all the delightful details on adult respiratory rates.

Respiratory Rate: The Basics

Let’s start with the basics. When we breathe, air travels into our lungs and oxygenates our blood, which then circulates throughout our body to keep us alive and kicking. How often we inhale and exhale in one minute is called our respiratory rate.

Normal Respiratory Rate

So what exactly constitutes a normal respiratory rate for an adult? Typically, it falls between 12-20 breaths per minute at rest. But let’s be real – if I’m running late to work and my heart is pumping like Mario jumping through castles (yup), my breathing gets faster too.

Why Know Your Respiratory Rate?

Knowledge of your average breathing frequency can actually help diagnose underlying health conditions such as asthma, anxiety or other abnormalities. Pretty useful stuff when tracking down potential medical problems.

Factors Affecting Respiratory Rates (and why overthinking about it may increase them!)

Ever notice how getting nervous can make your heart race or cause those palms to sweat profusely? Same goes with increased worries about respiration rates – this feeling of anxiety can drive up your breathing patterns beyond the range where it should normally lie (who would’ve thought). Other factors including activity level (duh!), smoking habits (stop please) allergies & infections (ew) etc., also affect respirations in varying degrees (this explains why I’m still coughing).

Anxiety-Driven Hyper-Ventilation = Not Fun

You may have heard someone google-diagnose themselves with hyperventilation after googling their symptoms before heading off to see a doctor because Dr Google knows best. The truth is – hyper-ventilating can cause symptoms like dizziness, tingling, and shortness of breath (great ain’t it!?)

Chronic Obstructive Pulmonary Disease (COPD)

Smoking as a new fashion trend? Not since the 50s! Cigarette smoking causes chronic obstructive pulmonary disease also known as COPD. Respiratory rates in patients diagnosed with such lung conditions are higher than normal ranges because steady exertions are required just to breathe comfortably (how sad). COPD not only troubles respiratory health but drains happiness out of life too.

Abnormal Respiratory Rates

Not all abnormal respiratory rates indicate potential medical issues, though anomalies may hint at underlying factors that need attention. A few examples include:

  1. Tachypnea: when breathing frequency exceeds 20 respirations per minute.
  2. Bradypnea: when breathing frequency falls below 12 respirations per minute.
  3. Apnea: interruption or lack of spontaneous respiration for more than ten seconds

If you notice yourself experiencing any similarities then you know what ‘almost’ not to hit while googling (wink wink)!


Tachypnea often points towards heart failure or pneumonia (no offense), indicating immediate intervention is required from your doctor to avoid worsening it into bigger problems.


On the flip side, bradypneic episodes reveal underlying sleep disorders and neurologic pathologies in a patient long-term scenario where persistent decreased breather rate has taken place over time (zzz…sleep cycle issue who the hell knew?).


So now we have reached the end of our marathon article which consists mostly of fascinatingly terrifying(?) respiratory facts & figures beyond common knowledge about adult’s breathing patterns . You now possess an array(oohh fancy vocabulary day huh) of new vocabulary to assist in enhancing your never-ending thirst for knowledge! Until next time, breathe easy, and do not dwell too much about your respiratory rates. Instead, catch a breath of fresh air outside or better yet try some meditation techniques (ohm x 3 times) if experiencing anxiety-driven hyper-ventilation episodes so that we don’t have to see you hospitalized soon, okay?

Random Posts