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Your Rate of Breathing Can Reveal Your Health!

Minute Ventilation (VE) is the amount of oxygen we breathe in or out over a given period, usually a minute. Hence Minute Ventilation.

Healthy Minute Ventilation is between 5 and 8 liters/minute of oxygen (normally 12-14 breaths per minute).  There are times when Minute Ventilation is increased, for example, during exercise, which is good.  But other times could be an indication of disease.

During exercise, the physiological demands on the body require you to consume more oxygen to offset the lactic acid and CO2 that are byproducts of increased activity. Our respiration therefore increases from 35 to 45 breaths /minute in healthy young adults, to elite athletes which can achieve 60+ breaths per minute.  This is necessary to offset the effects of increased activity. This amazing process continues throughout our lives keeping us in balance!

An interesting recent twist to this is breathing aware athletes have been taking less breaths, utilizing more oxygen, and recovering faster with conscious breathing techniques. The number of breaths per minute now have dropped to the low 20s for intense exercise! Research from Patrick McKeown, the author of The Oxygen Advantage, has shown that controlled nasal diaphragmatic breathing can greatly decrease the number of breaths needed, increase the oxygen uptake, enhancing performance!

Disease states are a different story.  Certain conditions like cardiovascular disease or diabetes require more oxygen to provide the same recovery process that a healthy person requires, therefore putting more stress on the body.

Here are some examples of corresponding disease states and the corresponding oxygen needs at rest:

  • Healthy Subjects ~8 L/min
  • Heart Disease ~16 L/min
  • Diabetes ~15 L/min
  • Asthma ~15 L/min
  • COPD ~15 L/min
  • Cancer ~14 L/min
  • Sleep Apnea ~16 L/min
  • Hyperthyroidism ~16 L/min
  • Epilepsy ~14 L/min
  • Panic Disorder ~13 L/min

Referenced from www.normalbreathing.com

As you can see, disease states put a heavy burden on the respiratory system and have a detrimental effect on overall health. In essence, their bodies are constantly exercising! 

Deep breathing techniques, specifically diaphragmatic breathing are an easy, learnable, and quick way to help offset the burden of disease states on our health. The better you breathe the less you need to!

Conscious breathing along with recognition of triggers of stress (for another blog) can create almost immediate changes in our health.

Take a deep breath!

Reprinted with permission from authors.

Mike Rickett MS, CSCS*D, CSPS*D, RCPT*E is a nationally recognized health and fitness trainer of the trainers, fitness motivator, author, certifier, educator, and the 2017 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year.  He has been a fitness trainer for more than 35 years. With Cheri Lamperes, he co-directs BetterHealthBreathing.com, a conscious breathing educational program focusing on the diaphragmatic technique to enhance overall wellness.  In addition, he also directs the personal training site ApplicationInMotion.com.


Weight Loss Happens On The Exhale… The Nasal Exhale

Every person longing to be slim has heard the same advice forever: Eat less and exercise more. So simple, so logical, so what happened? America is the land of the overweight and the frustrated. For millions of people, every road has led to the same locked door. Until now. I’m going to give you the secret to helping you help your clients reach their weight loss goals in a healthy, lasting and fulfilling way.

For reasons ranging from stress to the influence of advertising, the majority of Americans find it difficult to lose the weight and keep it off. In addition, they are famously sedentary. According to the Centers For Disease Control & Prevention, 70% of adults are overweight or obese, contributing to health risks including heart disease, high cholesterol, high blood pressure, diabetes, stroke, and more (1). Either for health or vanity reasons, many of these overweight men and women try to slim down and usually gain back at least as many pounds as they lost. The secret to effectively losing weight and transforming patterns of behavior happens with breath. 

How Breath Influences Fat Burning

The way we breathe, fast or slow, mouth open or closed, shallow or deep affects our biochemical, physiological, biomechanical and psychological states of being. Nasal diaphragmatic breathing signals our parasympathetic branch of the autonomic nervous system while mouth breathing signals our sympathetic branch.  The difference determines whether you’re fat-burning or sugar-burning. Can you guess which turns you into a fat-burning machine? You guessed, nasal breathing.

Most of our clients are living in a stressed state (or the sympathetic branch of our nervous system). Not only is this the sugar-burning system, it also leads to abnormally high levels of cortisol. High cortisol levels promote weight gain (2).

In addition, nasal breathing increases oxygenation while mouth breathing decreases oxygenation. The speed at which your body burns oxygen or fuel for fat-burning benefits depends on how well your body utilizes oxygen. As we diaphragmatically nasal breathe, we stimulate the vagus nerve. “The vagus nerve regulates metabolic homeostasis by controlling heart rate, gastrointestinal motility and secretion, pancreatic endocrine and exocrine secretion, hepatic glucose production, and other visceral functions.” (4)

How The Fat Leaves On The Exhale

Fats are large molecules made up of oxygen, carbon, and hydrogen. When the oxygen we breathe reaches these fat molecules, it breaks them down into carbon dioxide and water.  The blood then picks up the carbon dioxide – a waste product of our bodies – and returns it to the lungs to be exhaled.  Therefore, the more oxygen our bodies use, the more fat we will burn.  

Nasal breathing is more efficient than mouth breathing in terms of supplying oxygen to the body as well as the transfer of oxygen and carbon dioxide between the lungs and red blood cells. When performing cardiovascular exercise, it is therefore preferable to inhale and exhale through the nose. (3)

Have you ever wondered where the fat goes? If you’re like most of us, you probably think the majority of fat is excreted through bodily fluids. Surprisingly, it’s not. Based on the research from the British Medical Journal, the majority of fat turns into carbon dioxide which is exhaled when we breathe. (5)

See My Interview With Ruben Meerman

Transforming Patterns of Behavior

The person who’s been sedentary for years won’t suddenly be persuaded to run a marathon. Core changes must come first in order to make everything else possible.  Using “breath as medicine” to improve health and the training experience, we cultivate the “choosing mind,” where we can alter lifelong patterns. 

People become sedentary and develop poor lifestyle patterns based on habit, boredom or emotional triggers.  So, there’s more involved than just losing the physical weight. Our issues are in our tissues. We’ve got to transform the emotional and physiological weight which is embedded in our unconscious and subconscious minds.  

Mindful breathing while exercising is being “neurofit” meaning we’re influencing physiological changes in the brain related to behavior. Life is a sensory experience and the body keeps score. Focusing on the breath allows a person to slow down, unwind and look inward. This is crucial for people whose lives are chronically hectic and stressful, who eat without thought, regardless of hunger. With deep, powerful breathing, they can break old patterns while cleansing internal systems. How does this happen?  By stimulating the vagus nerve (which only happens through nasal diaphragmatic breathing), we strengthen the areas of the brain responsible for emotional self-regulation. (6)

The body always lives in the present. It will never crave a Twinkie because of unrequited love, an upcoming review with a cranky boss, or an unhappy childhood. It cares only about what it needs from moment to moment to maintain homeostasis. The typical brain calls for millions of automatic acts in a day – from adjusting endocrine levels to blinking to deploying white cells for battle. As the connection between body and mind is fortified with breath, the choosing mind emerges reconnecting with our body to hear its’ objective voice which discriminates between emotional reactivity and true desire.

All that from a simple breath. 

Continuing Education: Breath as Medicine

Ed Harrold’s Breath AS Medicine breath coach training focuses on breath regulation concepts & strategies by applying the principles and philosophy of yoga breathing (or pranayama) to improve breathing rates and patterns. Breath AS Medicine is a highly effective modality for both the prevention of illness as well as therapy for managing and/or reversing existing chronic illness.

Click here to learn more about Ed Harrold’s Breath AS Medicine e-learning courses. Use coupon MedFit20 for 20% off either the 15 or 25-hour trainings.

A shorter 6-hour course is also available on MedFit Classroom. Click here for details.

Ed Harrold is an author, inspirational leader, public speaker, coach and educator. Ed’s mastery in the science of mindful breathing has guided him to apply conscious breathing practices in corporate performance coaching, fitness & athletic training, healthcare trainings, stress reduction and overall health and well-being.

Today, Ed blends the fields of neuroscience and the wisdom of contemplative traditions into effective strategies to improve well-being in Corporate America, Healthcare, athletic performance and individual health. Ed’s fluency in mindfulness-based strategies combined with the belief in the human potential gives him the depth and understanding to meet individuals and group needs across industries and platforms.

 Ed is the author of  “Life With Breath” and “BodyMindBusiness”; he is a contributing health & wellness editor for Huffingtpost, Thrive Global, MindBodyGreen & PTOnTheNet. Ed’s Breath AS Medicine Training offers CE in the healthcare, wellness coaching, fitness & athletic training sectors. Ed is a Faculty Member of the Medical Wellness Association. Learn more about Ed at www.edharrold.com



  1. National Center For Health Statistics, Health, United States, 2015.  Table 53.  https://www.cdc.gov/nchs/fastats/obesity-overweight.htm 
  2. Sominsky, L. & Spencer, S. (May 2014). Eating behavior and stress: a pathway to obesity, School of Health Sciences and Health Innovations Research Institute, Retrieved from http://journal.frontiersin.org 
  3. Novotny, S. (2007, February 1). The science of breathing. Ideafit.com. Retrieved from http://www.ideafit.com/ 
  4. Harada, S., Yamazaki, Y., Koda, S., Tokuyama, S. (April 23, 2014). Hepatic Branch Vagus Nerve Plays a Critical Role in the Recovery of Post-Ischemic Glucose Intolerance and Mediates a Neuroprotective Effect by Hypothalamic Orexin-A, Retrieved from http://journals.plos.org/ 
  5. Meerman, A. Brown (December 19, 2014).  When Somebody Loses Weight, Where Does The Fat Go? The BMJ. Retrieved from http://www.bmj.com/content/349/bmj.g7257
  6. Porges SW, Doussard-Roosevelt JA, Maiti AK (1994).  Vagal Tone And The Physiological Regulation of Emotion.  PubMed.  Retrieved from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/7984159 
Cartoon nose breathing in word

Breathing to Enhance Exercise Intensity and Recovery

For years the standard measure of resistance training was measured in volumes and loads, usually determined by sets and repetitions. Although an apparent effective way to determine success in a workout program, is it the most effective? Is there another way to determine intensity? Or better yet, a way to enhance recovery during a set? These questions are now being investigated. Some of the research is over fifty years old and more prevalent today than when it was originally hypothesized.

The recent rise of books like Breath by James Nestor, the impressive exploits of the self-proclaimed “Iceman” Wim Hof, or even the Biomimicry thinking of Dr. Robert Friedman has started questioning the traditional thinking of exercise performance, health and the immune system.

Conscious breathing, or diaphragmatic breathing, is not only for yoga and meditation but is a controlling factor in the regulatory governor for resistance training. Instead of counting reps, count breaths. Not any kind of breath, but specific breathing patterns designed for the type of exercise performance desired. For example, if you’re going to perform 12 repetitions of a specific exercise, instead you would do three +patterned breaths that would look something like this: On the first repetition, inhale through your nose (deep into your belly or diaphragmatically), hold your breath on the second repetition, and slowly exhale on the third and fourth repetitions. This allows for more controlled energy in and out!

This breathing style also has its roots in the Golden Ratio and the Fibonacci Sequence.  The book Nature’s Secret Nutrient by Dr. Robert Friedman puts it in specific terms where the goal is to exhale 1.618 times longer than you inhale. This breathing protocol can be used, and has been used with success, for resistance, cardiovascular, power, and even flexibility training.

According to Patrick McKeown, the author of 7 publications, including The Oxygen Advantage, conscious breathing is the optimal way to create energy and recovery into your body. Here’s why. First when you inhale through your nose, turbinate’s filter and increase the NO3, you humidify the air, and move oxygen more slowly to allow more absorption. NO3 is vaso-dilater which increases the capacity of arteries. When you hold and exhale slowly and controlled, you create an increase of CO2 tolerance, another vaso-dilator, and increase O2 hunger so more oxygen is absorbed. This dilation of arteries leads to more energy to the muscles and faster recovery.

Another key point to conscious breathing is slower minute ventilation. This means less “dead” air space — the space in your nose and trachea that are not used in the transition of O2-CO2. For example, if you breathe 12 times a minute and inhale 6 liters of air, you would only get about 4.1 liters of air in the lungs. But, if you breathe at a rate of 6 breaths a minute you would only have 6 dead spaces with the 6 liters of air taken in, and therefore take in about 5 liters of air. Considerably more efficient!

Diaphragmatic breathing also allows for more oxygen uptake. Eighty percent of the oxygen absorption occurs in the lower half of the lungs. Therefore, if you are breathing shallowly you are doing your body a great disservice!  

With diaphragmatic breathing, you engage all abdominal muscles and create a network that not only moves oxygen and CO2 but creates a stronger, more focused core for activity. Whether running, jumping, lifting, or doing back handsprings, conscious breathing creates the foundation of movement. 

Even posture benefits from conscious breathing. Diaphragmatic breathing is greatly hampered if your posture is poor. Allowing an awareness of the most efficient way to breathe increases the likelihood of taking postural corrections and moving in a more anatomically correct manner. Whether exercising, sitting or even sleeping, posture plays a big role in the ability to breathe. Breathe well and you will perform and recover at a whole new level.

These benefits of diaphragmatic breathing not only add to the effectiveness of your workout and make each repetition not only more dynamic but the transition an integral part as well.

Whether it is technology, health concerns, financial issues, relationships, or even weather, we are constantly bombarded by stressors. Individually they are manageable, but together they can become a recipe for disaster.  Exercise is an invaluable way to boost your immune system, energy, and most important overall mental health. Use every technique at your disposal.

The respiratory concerns created with the COVID outbreak have raised awareness of the importance of conscious breathing! Any way we can manage stress, improve the immune system and kickstart the recovery process at the same time is golden. Diaphragmatic breathing is that gold.

Mike Rickett MS, CSCS*D, CSPS*D, RCPT*E is a nationally recognized health and fitness trainer of the trainers, fitness motivator, author, certifier, educator, and the 2017 NSCA Personal Trainer of the Year.  He has been a fitness trainer for more than 35 years.  He co-directs with Cheri Lamperes BetterHealthBreathing.com, a conscious breathing educational program focusing on the diaphragmatic technique to enhance overall wellness.  In addition, he also directs the personal training site ApplicationInMotion.com.


Got Oxygen? Empower Clients with Improved Lung Capacity

As a longtime yoga instructor, I know that holding our breath is not recommended for seniors. Yet, I often see clients restrict their breathing, while straining to hear me. When we limit oxygen intake, the heart produces distressing symptoms.

Mary, who has impaired hearing, is one example. Frequently she experienced the kind of chest pains that once sent her to the ER for a “nothing wrong” diagnosis. During fitness class one day, her chest pains were back.


Simple Breathing Exercises for Stress and Anxiety

Breathing is one of the bodily functions that you can control on your own with very little effort. You can regulate your breathing with a little bit of practice in order to calm your mind and body to relieve stress and anxiety when they inevitably arise. If you’re a naturally high-strung person, this may take some practice but, luckily, these breathing exercises for stress and anxiety can help you.