Some breathing/meditation apps do offer value but beware their use before respiratory fitness is in place. Unfortunately, when RF is not up to snuff, apps and breathing devices can do more harm than good. Most apps use a pacer and are notorious for moving users toward a slower rhythm that has them uncomfortable after a minute or two. Hence, many take deeper breaths with a bit of gasping (as seen on capnometry equipment). This is training an over-breathing habit and associated hypocapnia. Other apps that train up heart-rate-variability do so at the expense of degrading CO2 levels.  No apps look at respiratory fitness, CO2 levels and internal chemistry/physiology. The studies these apps are based on revolving around resonant breathing rates of 5-7 breaths/minute, without consideration for CO2 levels. The resonant breathing rate of one with healthy respiratory fitness is typically between 4 and 6 breaths/minute. These individuals can comfortably breathe at this rate and benefit accordingly. Those with sub-par RF will likely be uncomfortably sustaining a respiratory rate of 4-7br/min for more than a minute or two. I, author of the website, had to retrain a number of clients on how to breathe more appropriately after they had been trained incorrectly on popular and well-respected breathing apps/devices. If you happen to be a practitioner or coach that offers breathing suggestions, consider the importance of chemistry/physiology and respiratory fitness prior to introducing resonant breathing rates.  New research in psychophysiology points to how paced breathing at 6 breaths/minute (.1hz) “may lead to moderate hyperventilation amongst untrained individuals”.

Breathing apps – and even most professional biofeedback equipment do not consider the importance of CO2 levels and healthy physiology being in place and hence, leave out an important aspect of healthy breathing.  A professional grade capnometer or capnometry biofeedback equipment are the only tools that reliably measure CO2 levels and, in the right hands, can undo dysfunctional breathing habits while training toward respiratory fitness. Training with capnometry has the added benefit of allowing a client to witness their resilience to stressors and explore dysfunctional behaviours that throw breathing and internal chemistry out of balance.

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