A rate adaptive cardiac rhythm management device in which the pacing rate is adjusted in accordance with changes in the patient's minute ventilation. An adaptive four-pole elliptic digital filter, preferably implemented in software, functions to attenuate any signal components due to cardiac activity and motion from the minute ventilation signal over the range of breathing frequencies encountered in going from a sedentary state to active exercise. The pacemaker incorporates a microprocessor-based controller that is programmed to compute from peak-to-peak excursions of the sensed parameter the instantaneous tidal volume. Likewise, it computes, using a zero-crossing technique, the breathing interval. Knowing the breathing interval and the instantaneous tidal volume, it is possible to compute minute ventilation over a predetermined time interval and it is that factor that is employed in developing the ultimate control signal used to vary the stimulating rate between a lower rate limit and an upper rate limit.