The ideal breathing rate? Research shows it’s 5 to 7 breaths per minute
October 18th, 2021,
4 min read
When you breathe slowly, your nervous system calms down. You can feel the changes happening in your body, but how can this be explained? What does science say about the effects of slow breathing? Our postdoctoral researcher at moonbird, Elisabeth Honinx, assembles the most interesting studies on breathing.
The research Elisabeth looked at this time shows that, although different for everyone, the ideal breathing rate to maximize HRV lies between 5 and 7 breaths per minute. The objective of this study was to study which respiration frequency would lead to the highest relaxation, reflected by heart rate variability (HRV).
Heart rate variability is literally the variance in time between the beats of your heart. You might think that if your heart rate is 60 beats per minute, it's beating once every second. But your heart doesn’t beat like a metronome. Within that minute there may be 0.9 seconds between two beats, for example, and 1.15 seconds between two others.
This variation is controlled by your autonomic nervous system. It’s subdivided into two large components, the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response. If your system is in more of a fight-or-flight mode, the variation between subsequent heartbeats is low. If one is in a more relaxed state, the variation between beats is high.
In other words, the healthier your nervous system, the higher your HRV, the faster you are able to switch gears, showing more resilience and flexibility.
One hundred healthy volunteers (40% male, 60% female) were asked to breathe at four, five, six, seven, and eight breaths per minute in randomized order, for two minutes each. Different HRV indicators were measured with an electrocardiogram.
Breathing at a frequency of 5 to 7 BPM leads to the highest HRV values. But there is no single respiration ratio that maximizes all indicators. People may use five to seven BPM as guidance to determine ideal breathing frequencies.
Moonbird is specifically designed to help you breathe in a steady, slow rhythm. In the app, you can select different breathing exercises that will guide you at a slow pace that will help maximize your HRV. Moreover, if you follow the HRV intake via the app, moonbird will determine your ideal breathing rate. Click here to find out more.
Source: Soer R, Six Dijkstra MWMC, Bieleman HJ, Oosterveld FGJ, Rijken N. Influence of respiration frequency on heart rate variability parameters: A randomized cross-sectional study. J Back Musculoskelet Rehabil. 2021 May 10. doi: 10.3233/BMR-200190. Epub ahead of print. PMID: 34024811.
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