Among the new health features in watchOS 9 and iOS 16, Apple calls Cardio Recovery. Follow us for an in-depth look at the feature, how to track it with Apple Watch, why it’s valuable, what Cardio Recovery numbers are good at, and tips on how to improve it.
It turns out that Cardio Recovery is something that was previously available on Apple Watch under the widely used term “heart rate recovery”. With watchOS 9 and iOS 16, Apple renamed the Cardio Recovery feature — perhaps to match its Cardio Fitness (VO2 max) metric in the Health app. Notably, the feature didn’t previously appear in the Health app — only in the Fitness app — but it was added with iOS 16.
Like HRV and VO2 max, cardiac recovery or heart rate recovery is a lesser-known health metric that is measured by Apple Watch every time you complete a workout. Whether you’ve never used the feature before or are curious about why it’s useful, how to ensure you get accurate readings, or how to improve yours, read on 😁.
What is Cardio Recovery and why is it important?
Cardio Recovery measures how much your heart rate drops immediately after exercise. As with heart rate variability, heart rate recovery (HRR) offers insight into the health of your heart based on how quickly it responds to the autonomic nervous system.
MedPage Today explains HRR like this:
Measurements of this activity reflect the balance between the sympathetic nervous system (which activates fight and flight responses) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which activates “rest and digest” activities) and have been shown to be strong predictors of mortality.
In one of the most cited studies – referenced more than 1,000 times – by Cole, Blackstone, Pashkow, Snader and Lauer, an abnormally low HRR was found to predict the risk that individuals were twice as likely to die. within six years.
What are the good numbers of Cardio Recovery?
More recent studies validating Cole et al. the results show that cardiac recovery or heart rate recovery of 13 or morer (meaning a drop of 13 bpm or more) after 1 minuteWhere 22 or more after two minutes is within the normal/healthy range.
However, keep in mind that to most accurately test heart rate recovery, you’ll need to stop your Apple Watch workout recording right after your workout. For example, if you leave your workout running after finishing, stretching, sitting, relaxing, and then completing the workout, you will see low HRR numbers because Apple Watch does not compare your workout heart rate to your 1 minute and Heart rate after 2 minutes of exercise.
Likewise, workouts that include a cooldown will also skew the HRR numbers. And third-party apps that support starting workouts on Apple Watch like Peloton, etc. can also end workouts before the wearable can measure your heart rate recovery. In these cases, heart rate recovery numbers will not appear on Apple Watch or iPhone.
Don’t worry if you notice a low HRR here and there. These numbers may vary depending on your age among other factors. But if you see yourself consistently below the numbers above, and you stop Apple Watch workouts right after you finish exercising, it might be worth seeing your doctor.
A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association concluded that recovering heart rate measured just 10 seconds after exercise may be more accurate in predicting mortality, but Apple Watch sticks with the approach. more traditional 1 and 2 minutes.
Another way Cardio Recovery is helpful is for people who have had a heart attack. Research has shown that cardio rehabilitation can improve heart rate recovery by 18 to 22 beats per minute (thanks, Brandon!).
Apple Watch Cardio Recovery: How to Track and View
Apple Watch will automatically track your Cardio Recovery (heart rate recovery). This happens when you finish your exercise tracker, so be sure to leave your wearable on for three minutes afterwards (per Apple).
To view your data (Heart Rate Recovery in iOS 15/watchOS 8 and earlier, and Cardio Recovery in iOS 16/watchOS 9):
- On Apple Watch, go to Heart rate app
- Swipe or scroll down
- As long as you have a saved workout for the day, you should see a Recovery section in watchOS 8, labeled Post workout in watchOS 9
- Tap it to see details
- Cardio/heart rate recovery shows how much your heart rate has dropped 1 and 2 minutes after your workout
- Keep in mind that you will need to leave your Apple Watch on after workouts for the HRR reading to be measured
- To see data from previous days you will need to head to your iPhone, follow below
In the Health app (only with iOS 16)
- In iOS 16, head to the Health app on iPhone
- Choose the Browse tab at the bottom right
- Press now Heart
- Look for Cardiac recovery
- Now you can see all the data you have collected with Apple Watch, tap the D/W/M/6M/Y tabs at the top to see different time periods
Option 2 – iOS 16, 15 and earlier versions
- To see Apple Watch Cardio/Heart Rate recovery data for past workouts, go to iPhone fitness app
- Choose the Summary tab basically
- Press a recent training from the main screen or press your activity rings > choose a day > swipe down to find your workout(s)
- Find your heart rate data near the bottom > swipe left to right to see your Cardio / heart rate recovery
Interestingly, Apple does not include heart rate/cardio recovery data in the Health app under the heart section in iOS 15 and earlier.
How to improve cardio recovery?
There are several ways to improve cardiac recovery (heart rate recovery). Clothing maker Whoop shared this list of tips to improve responsiveness between your heart and autonomic nervous system:
- Quality sleep
- Stay hydrated
- Have a nutritious diet
- Practice meditation or breathing
- Reduce stress
- Avoid alcohol
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