Apple’s latest Machine learning research confirms the value of slower respiration rate for Wellness

Respiratory rate on Apple Watch

Apple’s researchers have published a new paper in collaboration with Healthy Minds Innovation that suggests that a slower Respiration Rate is associated with Higher self-reported Well-being after Wellness training.

The new paper examines mindfulness-based stress reduction (MBSR) interventions and finds that these can improve well-being via improved regulation of physiological and cognitive states, most notably via reduced respiratory rates.

Your Respiration rate (RR) is sensitive to the effects of meditation and mindfulness.

Apple’s researchers used respiration rate (RR) and 3 aspects of self-reported well-being (psychological well-being [PWB], distress, and medical symptoms), to test the hypotheses:

  • Lower baseline RR (in a resting, non-meditative state) would be a physiological marker associated with well-being,
  • MBSR would decrease RR, and
  • Training-related decreases in RR would be associated with improved well-being.

This study recruited 245 adults, consisting of experienced meditators and meditation-naive participants.

Lower baseline RR was associated with lower psychological distress among long-term meditators, though not in non-meditators before training. MBSR decreased RR compared to the waitlist but not the active control. Decreased RR related to decreased medical symptoms across all participants.

Lower RR was associated with higher Physical Wellbeing scores across training groups post-training. 

This physiological marker may indicate higher physical and/or psychological well-being in those who engage in wellness practices.

How to check your Respiratory Rate using Apple Watch 

The respiratory rate is easily accessible using the iOS Health app on your iPhone. 

  1. Open the Health app on your iPhone and tap on Browse tab at the bottom of the screen
  2. Tap on Respiratory and scroll down, and locate ‘Respiratory Rate’
  3. Tapping on it shows you your respiratory rateChecking Respiratory Rate on Apple Watch
  4. Under the Highlights, you will also be able to locate your Sleep Respiratory Rate.Sleeping Respiratory Rate on Apple Watch

You can lower your respiratory rate using various breathing techniques and meditation. The easiest way to work with it is to launch the mindfulness app on your Apple Watch and practice regular mindful breathing for 5 – 10 minutes daily.

If you are looking for guided meditations, Apple Fitness+ has numerous offerings that can assist. These meditations track your heart rate and as you practice, you will notice a drop in your resting heart rate, resulting in lower respiratory rates.

A direct positive relationship exists between respiration rate (number of breaths) and heart rate. The more the heart beats, the more breathing occurs. As the heart beats faster, it uses more energy and sends more oxygen to the body.

When you slow down your heart rate using mindful breathing or pranayama sequences, your respiration rate drops as well, and it helps tone your vagus nervous system, increasing your heart rate variability over time.

It is no coincidence that Smart Ring makers such as Oura are integrating services with meditation/mindfulness platforms such as Headspace.

We eagerly await the iOS 17 Journal app and love the new State of mind logging feature in iOS 17. Hopefully, future Apple Watches will incorporate Stress monitoring and associated MBSR-based prompts to guide users to find calmness and maintain a healthy lifestyle. Apple’s research has already shown how AirPods sensors can aid in tracking respiratory rate in the future.

The new Apple research was published in Scientific Reports in Nature journal. The research indicates that slower RR may be a biomarker of well-being states, where alterations in well-being states may change to become more stable in the long term through interventions such as mindfulness meditation.

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Sudz Niel Kar
I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products, have a BS in Computer Science and an MBA specializing in emerging tech, and owned the popular site AppleToolBox. In my day job, I advise Fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health and fitness-tech evolution and keeping a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships, and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch Ultra or Samsung Galaxy Watch and closely monitor my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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