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Respiratory Volumes and Capacities

Under normal conditions, the average adult takes 12 to 15 breaths a minute. A breath is one complete respiratory cycle that consists of one inspiration and one expiration.

An instrument called a spirometer is used to measure the volume of air that moves into and out of the lungs, and the process of taking the measurements is called spirometry. Respiratory (pulmonary) volumes are an important aspect of pulmonary function testing because they can provide information about the physical condition of the lungs.

Respiratory capacity (pulmonary capacity) is the sum of two or more volumes.

Factors such as age, sex, body build, and physical conditioning have an influence on lung volumes and capacities. Lungs usually reach their maximumin capacity in early adulthood and decline with age after that.