Breathwork is trending, according to Garmin's fitness report — 3 breathing exercises using your watch

Right image Garmin watch on wrist, left image woman seated breathing exercise
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Garmin produces some of the best smartwatches on the market, so we were intrigued by the release of the Garmin Fitness Report 2023, which revealed its yearly findings on what Garmin users have been up to. 

Using data collected and analyzed from the Garmin Connect app, Garmin has reported a 33% increase in users trying ‘intentional breathwork activities,’ making it one of the top activities of 2023, alongside familiar faces such as running — which unsurprisingly came first place — followed by walking, cycling, strength training and indoor cardio.

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We love using some of the best workout apps for exercise, but breathwork? Maybe it’s time to dial up recovery this year. Here are three breathing exercises you can do using your Garmin smartwatch and why it’s the trend worth trying in 2024.

If your recovery routine is lacking, Garmin users take breathwork activities more seriously than ever, with 33% more people logging ‘intentional’ breathing activities than the previous year.

Garmin writes of the findings: “How many times has someone told you to simply take a deep breath when something was upsetting you or stressing you out? While it can be frustrating in the moment, that advice is actually centered around science.” 

True, the science is there. An ever-growing body of research suggests breathwork taps into that little thing called mindfulness, helping to boost mood, improve energy levels and reduce stress. It’s a simple way to cut through moments of tension and focus on your physical and mental wellbeing — sitting cross-legged in a dark room is purely optional, of course. 

Some research has shown deep and rhythmic breathing, called 'Diaphragmatic Breathing,' can trigger relaxation by slowing and controlling the breath, and dedicated breathwork is a form of meditation that could improve stress and mental health. Other reported benefits include improving emotional balance, reducing anxiety and boosting cognitive performance.

The parasympathetic nervous system (our state of calm and relaxation) kicks into gear when we utilize breathwork, meditation, mindfulness, or breathing exercises.

When you experience stressful situations (busy day at work, overpacked subway ride), your body experiences stress signals as legitimate danger. It’s the fight-or-flight response that, from an evolutionary standpoint, keeps you safe. That means your body will physically react the same way to a lion chasing you as it would a stressful work call — quickened pulse, butterflies in the stomach and faster breathing, for example. 

That’s the sympathetic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system (our state of calm and relaxation) kicks into gear when we utilize breathwork, meditation, mindfulness, or breathing exercises. You could feel more calm, collected and in control in just a few minutes. Sound good? Garmin recommends trying these three breathing exercises.

Woman catching her breath

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3 breathing exercises to try using your Garmin watch 

Garmin breathing exercises can be done anytime, anywhere, for as little as five minutes. You’ll need to check if your Garmin is compatible. If it is, you’ll have access to the breathwork activity profile and three different breathing exercises: Tranquillity (for sleep), Coherence (calm and balance), or Relax and Focus (concentration). 

Tranquillity

The exercise lasts 10 minutes and builds until you can inhale for 4 seconds, hold it for 7, then exhale for 8 seconds, preparing you for a good night’s sleep. 

Coherence

Lasting 15 minutes, Coherence restores balance by slowing your breath to a 6-second inhale and exhale, taking 12 seconds per round of breath. You shouldn’t feel too zen but noticeably calmer. 

Relax and Focus

Again, taking just 15 minutes, Garmin claims this activity boosts focus and concentration. You’ll practice a well-known technique called “Box Breathing” or “Fourfold Breath.” The 4-4-4-4 breathing pattern encourages you to inhale for 4 seconds, hold for 4, release for 4, then hold for 4. You can also use a 5-minute version of the same practice to ease you in. Your Garmin smartwatch may suggest it if it detects any spikes in stress, followed by a Relax Reminder alert. 

Once finished, your Garmin displays stats like duration, heart rate and any changes in detected stress levels, and you can review your sessions anytime in your Garmin Connect, along with graphs showing respiration rate, heart rate and stress. Garmin’s got you covered. 

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Sam Hopes
Senior Staff Writer - Fitness

Sam Hopes is a level III fitness trainer, level II reiki practitioner, and senior fitness writer at Future PLC, the publisher of Tom's Guide. She is also about to undertake her Yoga For Athletes training course. Having trained to work with mind and body, Sam is a big advocate of using mindfulness techniques in sport and fitness, and their impact on performance. She’s also passionate about the fundamentals of training and building sustainable training methods.  When she's not writing up her experiences with the latest fitness tech and workouts, you’ll find her writing about nutrition, sleep, recovery, and wellness.