How to Calculate Minute Volume

Minute volume gives an indication of the lungs' capacity.
Minute volume gives an indication of the lungs' capacity. (Image: thorax x-ray of the lungs image by JoLin from

Minute volume is the volume of air that a person inhales and exhales in 1 minute. This calculation is used by physicians, nurses and respiratory therapists to help determine a person's overall respiratory health. Health professionals often use this measurement with patients experiencing various respiratory conditions such as asthma, pneumonia and emphysema.

Things You'll Need

  • Calculator
  • Stopwatch
  • Respirometer

Calculate a person's tidal volume. This is the amount of air that they inhale and exhale in a normal breath. This calculation is usually determined by having the individual blow into a device that measures respiration, known as a respirometer. The average tidal volume for a person at rest is approximately 50 mL.

Count the number of times a person breathes in 1 minute. One breath would be an inhalation plus an exhalation.

Multiply the tidal volume times the number of breaths in a minute to find the minute volume. For instance, if a person's tidal volume is 50 mL and he breathes 15 times in a minute, multiply 50 times 15 to get a minute volume of 750 mL per minute.

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