New app aims to reduce stress with slow breathing

Mon Oct 24, 2011 12:40pm EDT
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By Natasha Baker

TOKYO (Reuters) - Want to reduce stress and improve mental focus? A new app that promotes slow breathing may help.

Called MyCalmBeat, the app uses a heart rate monitor that attaches to the ear to detect a person's optimal breathing rate, or resonant frequency, which is unique to each person.

At this breathing rate, the company says the user can increase the variability of their heart rate to lower stress levels.

"People don't realize the profound impact that slow breathing can have until they actually sit down and do it for 10 minutes and then they feel completely different," said Savannah DeVarney, vice president of product marketing for MyBrainSolutions, the creators of the app.

After finding their ideal breathing rate, animated exercises show users how to breathe at that rate, while the heart monitor provides feedback about the variability of their heart rate.

"Normally people think of 65 beats per minute as a good resting heart rate. But we're not necessarily looking at heart rate -- we're looking at the degree to which the space between consecutive heart beats varies," DeVarney explained.

When a person is stressed their heart rate becomes consistent and variability is minimized. But when relaxed, variability is maximized, slowing down as you breathe out and speeding up as you breathe in.

"We know that for most people their resonant frequency is between 7.5 and 4.5 breaths per minute. The software maps your heart rate variability through each of those rates to find the breathing rate where it becomes maximized," said DeVarney.   Continued...

<p>A worker on IG Index's trading floor holds his head in his hands as markets tumble globally, in London September 22, 2011. REUTERS/Andrew Winning</p>