The average respiratory rate (breaths per minute) for a so-called “healthy adult” is said to be between 12 and 18 breaths per minute. However, modern scientific research has identified this range of breaths as “chronic over-breathing.” Just as we have an optimal amount of food and water to consume each day, we also have an optimal amount of air to breathe. And just as over-eating can be damaging to our health, so too can over-breathing.
Over-breathing releases too much carbon dioxide from our body, resulting in a lack of energy. It also reduces the ability of the heart to pump blood throughout the body, and can lead to hyperventilation, anxiety, high blood pressure, and heart disease. Whenever we feel the need to sigh, or we feel lethargic or exhausted, it is most likely due to over-breathing.*
The good news is that over-breathing can be cured by simply lowering the number of breaths we take per minute. The optimal respiratory rate for a healthy adult is considered by breathing professionals to be 6 breaths per minute. This means that each breath lasts 10 seconds. By inhaling for four counts and exhaling for six, we can lengthen our breath to last 10 seconds. This respiratory rate of 6 breaths per minute has also been shown to improve baroreflex sensitivity (the autonomic nervous system’s monitoring of the cardiovascular system) and to reduce blood pressure.
*Excellent sources of information regarding our respiratory process and 0ver-breathing, along with scientifically-proven breathing techniques to lower stress levels and improve one's overall health include Patrick McKeown's The Oxygen Advantage (William Morrow, 2016), James Nestor's Breath (Penguine Group, 2020), and Jesse Coomer's A Practical Guide to Breathwork: A Remedy for the Modern Human Condition (Midwestern Method LLC, 2023).