Breathing rate

Also known as respiratory rate

Your breathing rate is the number of breaths you take per minute. Find out how to measure your breathing rate.

On this page, you can find the following information:

Aotearoa e te toa! How to assess your breathing rate

(Health Navigator NZ, in partnership with Northland DHB & Ministry of Health, 2022)

What is your breathing rate?

Your breathing rate is also known as your respiratory rate. This is the number of breaths you take per minute. Breathing rates may increase with fever, illness and other medical conditions. When checking your breathing, it's important to also note whether you have any difficulty breathing, eg, it is hard to get the air in or it hurts to breathe.

Normal breathing rate

Normal breathing rates for an adult person at rest range from 12–16 breaths per minute. A breathing rate under 12 or over 25 breaths per minute while resting is considered abnormal. Let our healthcare team know if you have any difficulty breathing or your rate is abnormal.

How to measure your breathing rate

Breathing rate is usually measured when you are at rest. It involves counting the number of breaths taken in 1 minute by counting how many times your chest rises. Take these steps to get an accurate measurement:

  • It is important that you rest for a few minutes before measuring your breathing rate. 
  • It's best to take your respiratory rate while sitting up in a chair or in bed. Sit down and try to relax.
  • Measure your breathing rate by counting the number of times your chest or abdomen rises over the course of 1 minute.
  • Record this number in your diary.
  • It may be difficult to do by yourself. Ask a family/whānau member to help you.

Note: sometimes a person's breathing rate changes because they are thinking about it or getting anxious while they are trying to measure it. If this happens, you could ask a family member to measure your breathing rate when you are not aware your breaths are being counted.


  1. How to measure your respiratory rate Mayo Clinic, US, 2020
  2. Vital signs (body temperature, pulse rate, respiration rate, blood pressure) John Hopkins Medicine, US
Credits: Sandra Ponen, Pharmacist. Reviewed By: Dr Helen Liley FRNZCGP, GP Liaison Counties Manukau Health Last reviewed: 25 Oct 2021