Change Breathe app session time on your Apple Watch and improve mindfulness

Apple Watch Breathe

The Breathe app on Apple Watch was introduced as an integral feature of watchOS 3, way back in September 2016.  This popular Apple Watch app helps you relax and focus on breathing.

James Nestor argues in his top-selling book of 2020, Breath the new science of a lost art, that no matter what you eat, how much you exercise, how skinny or young or wise you are, none of it matters if you’re not breathing properly.

He notes taking “slow and low” breaths through the nose can help relieve stress and reduce blood pressure in this NewYork Times Bestselling book of this year.

Let’s take a look at how Apple’s Breathe app works and how you change the overall timing of the breath session.

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Apple’s Breathe app

The Breathe app on Apple Watch can help users achieve mindfulness breathing and go a long way in managing stress.

Did you know that you can, not only set up reminders for nudging you to use the Breathe app but also adjust the session time on the app?

As you start practicing more mindful breathing, you can easily adjust the session time by increasing it to your preference. The App allows you to choose a duration between 1 minute and 5 minutes.

How to adjust the Breathe app session time on your Apple Watch

In order to adjust the breathe session time,Change Breathe session time on Apple Watch

  1. Tap on the Breathe app on your Apple Watch to open it
  2. Swipe left to right on the screen to shift through the initial messages
  3. You should see the Breathe screen with a ‘Start’ at the bottom of the screen
  4. Rotate your digital crown on this screen to adjust the breathe session time
  5. Choose from 1 min to maximum of 5 minutes for the session duration and tap Start

Once you have set up your preference for Breathe session duration time on your Apple Watch, you can set this parameter up in a way so that it automatically uses the breathe session time of your prior session.

You can also open the Health app on your iPhone, tap on the Summary tab and then choose ‘Show All Health Data‘. Scroll down on this screen and locate ‘Mindful Minutes‘.Track history of breathe session time on Apple Watch

This shows you how you have progressed as you increase the Breathing session time with your regular practice.

Most users tend to leave the default 1 minute breathe time on, but you can easily change it to your preference and get more out of the Breathe app on your Apple Watch.

Setup default Breathe session time

In order to set the default Breathe session time based on your prior use,

  1. Tap on ‘Watch’ app on your iPhone to open it
  2. Tap on ‘My Watch’ at the bottom left of your screen
  3. Scroll down to locate ‘Breathe’ and tap to openSet default session Time on Apple Watch Breathe app
  4. Enable ‘Use Previous Duration’ at the bottom of this screenChange Breathe rate and defaults for Apple Watch

This Breathe app setting screen on your iPhone allows you to set up other preferences as well.

For example, use ‘Breathe Reminders’ to choose the number of times you want to be reminded about using the Breathe app on your Apple Watch. Choose ‘None’ on this screen to skip breathing reminders entirely.

Change Breathe Rate on your Apple Watch 

Another important component of breathing exercise is the rate at which you breathe. A slow and deep breath is always the most advocated choice by researchers who study stress. 

Tap on ‘Breathe Rate’ on this screen and you can choose between 4 breathes to 10 breaths per minute to set up your preference.

Meditation and Mindfulness Apps for Apple Watch

As you get better and absorb the Breathing exercise into your regular routine, you may feel the need to explore other apps that offer more comprehensive mindfulness breathing features.

Calm versus Headspace app for Breathing and Meditation

There are two apps that are very popular with the Apple community in this space. These are:

  • Headspace
  • Calm

Headspace offers tailored guided meditation practices that are 10 minutes long. This helps you overcome the breathing time limit of 5 minutes that is offered by the Apple Breathe app.Headspace app for stress management

If you are looking for a more open-ended meditation app, a little less guided, you should definitely check out the Calm app. The app is liked by more experienced meditators who don’t need structured sequences.

That being said, Headspace also has different levels that are suitable based on the experience of the user. You can move from the ‘Basic’ to ‘Basics 2 ‘ or even ‘Pro’ as you get better at the breathing exercises.

Headspace app also offers you shorter guided meditations with time-varying from 3 minutes and 5 minutes. Calm app on the other hand has mostly the longer 10 minutes plus meditations.Calm app for meditation and breathing

The Calm app also has a “Sleep Stories” feature that is appreciated by many users who like to hear a soothing voice narrative when trying to fall asleep.

Headspace also has a unique SOS feature that many users like. These are two-minute meditation sessions that are available on your Apple Watch to help you diffuse momentary tensions.

Check each one out since the pricing on these apps is very similar and try it out before you decide to subscribe to some of their offerings.

Tracking Heart Rate and HRV during Breathing and Meditation

Although apps such as Calm and Headspace offer you many metrics that track your progress, those looking to understand finer details of breathing and impact to cardiovascular health can explore a third-party app such as Zendo, which helps you analyze your meditation sessions.

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has been shown to have a direct correlation with stress and anxiety. Research has shown that HRV bio-feedback training has positive effects for people trying to reduce stress and anxiety.

Measuring Heart Rate and HRV during Breathing with Apple Watch
Zendo app

The Zendo app works with both Headspace and Calm and focusses on Heart Rate Variability and other related metrics showing you the impact of your breathing and meditation exercises on your overall well-being and cardiovascular fitness.

Wrap up

In Summary, the Breathe app on your Apple Watch is a great place to start if you are looking for a routine to manage your stress and improve your mindfulness. 

As Apple gears up for Apple Watch Series 6 along with a planned introduction of a new Health activity subscription feature, we are sure that we will find new and interesting offerings in the mental health space from the Cupertino giant in the months to come.

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. 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&fitness-tech evolution and keep 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 or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.


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