Variations in Breathing Rate

Variations in Breathing Rate

  • Breathing rate, also known as respiratory rate, refers to the number of breaths a person takes per minute.
  • At rest, the average breathing rate in adults is around 12-20 breaths per minute. Many factors can cause this rate to change.

Factors Influencing Breathing Rate

  • Exercise: During physical activity, the rate and depth of breathing increases to meet the body’s increased demand for oxygen.
  • Temperature and humidity: Extreme heat and humidity can affect the breathing rate as the body tries to cool down.
  • Health conditions: Diseases such as asthma, COPD (chronic obstructive pulmonary disease), and heart failure can cause an increase in breathing rate.
  • Emotional states: Stress, anxiety, and other emotions can temporarily increase the breathing rate.

Respiratory Control Centre

  • The respiratory control centre in the brain (brainstem) controls the breathing rate. It automatically adjusts the rate based on levels of oxygen, carbon dioxide, and acid in the blood.
  • When these levels are higher than normal, the respiratory control centre signals the muscles involved in breathing to work harder and faster.

Impact of Exercise on Breathing

  • Regular exercise improves respiratory health by increasing the strength and efficiency of respiratory muscles.
  • This results in more efficient gas exchange as the lungs can inhale more oxygen and exhale more carbon dioxide per breath, reducing the need for rapid breathing rates during subsequent workouts.
  • Regular exercise can also increase lung capacity (the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use), which can help reduce breathlessness during physical activity.

Monitoring Breathing Rate

  • Breathing rate can be measured by counting the number of breaths taken in a minute.
  • Monitoring changes in breathing rate can be a useful way to track fitness levels and identify potential health issues.
  • For example, a sustained increase in rest breathing rate may indicate a worsening of a respiratory condition or onset of illness.