April 18, 2024

Cardio Recovery: What’s on Apple Watch/iPhone?

Among the valuable health features of watchOS is something Apple calls Cardio Recovery. Continue for a detailed description of what the feature is, how to track it with Apple Watch, why it’s valuable, good Cardio Recovery numbers, and tips for improving it.

It turns out that Cardio Recovery is something that was previously available on Apple Watch under the widely used term “heart rate recovery.” In watchOS 9 and iOS 16 and later, Apple renamed the feature to Cardio Recovery, possibly to match its Cardio Fitness (VO2 max) metric in the Health app. Notably, the feature previously didn’t appear in the Health app, only the Fitness app, but is now available in both.

Like HRV and Cardio Fitness, Cardio Recovery is a lesser-known health metric that Apple Watch measures every time you track a workout. If you’ve never used the feature before or are curious about why it’s valuable, 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:

Measures of that activity reflect the balance between the sympathetic nervous system (which activates fight-flight responses) and the parasympathetic nervous system (which activates “rest and digest” activities) and have been shown to be powerful predictors of mortality. .

One of the most cited studies (referenced over 1,000 times) by Cole, Blackstone, Pashkow, Snader, and Lauer found that abnormally low HRR is a predictor of people being twice as likely to die in a period of six years.

Related:

What are good Cardio Recovery numbers?

More recent studies validating the method of Cole et al. The findings show that Cardio Recovery or recovery of heart rate of 13 or morer (meaning a drop of 13 bpm or more) after 1 minuteeither 22 or more after two minutes is in the normal/healthy range.

However, keep in mind that to more accurately test heart rate recovery, you will need to stop recording your Apple Watch workout immediately after your workout. For example, if you leave your workout running after finishing, stretching, sitting down, relaxing, and then finishing the workout, you’ll see low HRR numbers since Apple Watch doesn’t compare your workout heart rate to your 1-minute heart rate and heart rate. 2 minutes post-exercise.

Similarly, workouts that include a cooldown will also skew HRR numbers. And third-party apps that support starting workouts on Apple Watch, such as Peloton, etc., may 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 consistently find yourself below your previous numbers and stop Apple Watch workouts immediately after finishing exercise, it may be worth checking in with your doctor.

A 2018 study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association concluded that heart rate recovery measured just 10 seconds after exercise may be more accurate in predicting mortality, but the Apple Watch still follows the more traditional approach of 1 and 2 minutes.

Another way Cardio Recovery is useful is for people who have had a heart attack. There has been research showing that cardiovascular rehab can improve heart rate recovery to between 18 and 22 beats per minute (thanks, Brandon!).

Apple Watch Cardio Recovery: How to Track and View

apple watch

Apple Watch will automatically track your Cardio Recovery. This happens when you finish tracking your exercise, so leave your wearable on for three minutes afterwards (according to Apple).

To view your data (called Cardio Recovery in iOS 16/watchOS 9 and later and Heart Rate Recovery in iOS 15/watchOS 8 and earlier):

  1. On Apple Watch, go to Heart rate app
  2. Swipe or scroll down
  3. Whenever you have a workout logged for the day, you should see a Post-workout section in watchOS 9 and 10 (called Recovery on watchOS 8)
  4. Tap it to see details
  5. Cardiovascular recovery/heart rate shows how much your heart rate decreased 1 and 2 minutes after your workout.
    • Please note that you will need to leave your Apple Watch on after workouts to measure the HRR reading.
  6. To view data from previous days, you will need to head to your iPhone and follow the instructions below.
Cardio Recovery Apple Watch

iPhone

In the Health app (iOS 16 and later only)

  1. On iOS 17 or 16, go to Health app on iPhone
  2. Choose the Explore tab In the bottom right
  3. Now it’s time Heart
  4. Look for Cardiac recovery
  5. Now you can see any data you’ve collected with Apple Watch, tap the D/W/M/6M/Y tabs at the top to see different time periods.
Cardiovascular recovery watchOS 9 iOS 16 iPhone

An alternative way of seeing

  1. To view Apple Watch heart rate/cardio recovery data for previous workouts, go to Fitness app on iPhone
  2. Choose the Summary Tab in the background
  3. Touch a recent training from the home screen or touch your activity rings > choose a day > scroll down to find your workout(s)
  4. Find your heart rate data near the bottom > swipe from left to right to see your heart rate/cardio recovery
Cardiovascular recovery iPhone iOS 16

Interestingly, Apple does not include heart rate/cardio recovery data in the Health app in the heart section in iOS 15 and earlier.

How to improve Cardio Recovery?

There are multiple ways to improve Cardio Recovery (heart rate recovery). Wearable device maker Whoop has shared this list of tips to improve responsiveness between the heart and autonomic nervous system:

  • quality sleep
  • Keep hydrated
  • Eat a nutritious diet
  • Practice meditation or breathing.
  • Reduces stress
  • Avoid alcohol

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