It is difficult to argue with the fact that breathing is good for you — after all, it is an autonomic function we need to survive. Even so, with busy schedules and demanding jobs, sometimes we may find ourselves gasping for air and that is where Apple's new breathing app comes into play.
“Breathe” was announced Monday as part of the updates Apple showcased for the WatchOS3 at this year’s Worldwide Developers Conference (WWDC). The app will be available later this year exclusively for Apple watches. “There is a lot more to health than just fitness,” said Jay Blahnik, Apple’s director of fitness and health technologies, in the keynote. The new app is “designed to guide you through simple deep breathing sessions to help you quiet your mind, relax your body, and better deal with everyday stress.” Blahnik cites yoga practitioners' use of deep breathing to further energize and relax, and the presentation featured a quote from Deepak Chopra (who recently launched his own mindfulness app called “Jiyo”), a supporter of the medical benefits of these exercises. While Chopra's Twitter credibility has recently been called into question, the power of breath has many supporters.
Dr. Mladen Golubic spoke with NPR about the benefits of breath in 2010, "You can influence asthma; you can influence chronic obstructive pulmonary disease; you can influence heart failure. There are studies that show that people who practice breathing exercises and have those conditions — they benefit."
Harvard Medical School's Family Health Guide reports that breathing in through the nose until the lungs are completely filled, can be a useful tool to combat the "fight or flight" stress response. "Deep abdominal breathing encourages full oxygen exchange — that is, the beneficial trade of incoming oxygen for outgoing carbon dioxide. Not surprisingly, it can slow the heartbeat and lower or stabilize blood pressure."
So how does the app work? Blahnik explains that all you need to do for your moment of calm is set the duration of your breathing session (they last between one and five minutes), and then follow the instructions. The user is guided by relaxing visuals or gentle audible taps to inhale and exhale. Once your session is complete you can review your summary and check your heart rate, which is monitored over the course of the exercise.
While it may seem like something out of HBO’s Silicon Valley, Apple is not kidding around about the projected health benefits. And even if you don't end up using it, at least now we can all say, “Breathing? There’s an app for that.”