Apple Watch 8/Watch Ultra gets Recovery Info- new for watchOS 9

Apple Watch 8/Ultra Recovery Abilities

There are new HRV features in the live version of watchOS 9 that were not there a couple of weeks ago. This is exciting news for anyone interested in athletic recovery and stress especially buyers of the new Apple Watch Ultra.

Quick Background

Image: M Eisen

The two methods of tracking HRV changes to indicate recovery are based on either a single 1-3 minute waking reading or an average of a series of nightly readings.

The advantage of the single reading is that it gives some rigour and consistency to the conclusions drawn from it but the advantage of the average of nightly values is that they are automatic and require zero interaction by the owner of the watch. However, the issue with a nightly average is that it can be skewed by, say, eating late or drinking a small amount of alcohol.

Another issue with nightly readings is that they need to be relatively frequent to ensure that readings are taken in the different sleep stages.

A further issue is what average to take. Is it the whole night? What is a whole night? WHOOP takes an average of an appropriate period. What is an appropriate period!? You get the point hopefully!

Historically Apple has only allowed a maximum of one automatic nightly reading every 2 hours. This data is essentially unusable for recovery as, for example, each of the 3 or 4 readings could coincide only with REM sleep.

Note: The extra data that Garmin adds to HRV to get their recovery/readiness score is not based on any published science that I’ve seen. It looks impressive and seems great but it’s kinda made up!

What’s Changed

The early watchOS 9 betas were disappointing to me as the frequency of HRV readings had not changed…it was one of the first things I looked for. Grrr.

However, now we have a live version of watchOS 9 you can see the situation has changed based on the data in the image above. This has automatic readings every few minutes. Yay.

It seems the automatic afib History feature in Health may need to be enabled for this to work.


The implications of this are actually, for once, quite profound. WAY more profound than you would think from what seems to have been a relatively trivial change for Apple to make.

In this one fell swoop, Apple suddenly is able to support athletes with valid recovery information. Sure, Apple will only provide the raw data, at least for now, but the many existing apps like Athlytic and HRV4Training only have relatively minor changes to make to use this new data – trivial to the extent that Gary at Athlytic will probably have it working tomorrow! Certainly by the end of September. (Edit: Lol…Gary already has it working!)

That’s another tick in the box for the Apple Watch Ultra for more serious athletes. And it needs some more ticks to compensate for the reality of the battery claims that have been made!


This has impacts on WHOOP and it has impacts on Garmin. To some degree, one of the genuinely athletic needs that only the likes of Garmin and WHOOP could provide is now easily delivered automatically in the Apple environment.

More: Athlytic on the app store – buy it, it’s good.

More: HRV4Training – buy it it’s good.



Thanks to Markus Eisen for the info!

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6 thoughts on “Apple Watch 8/Watch Ultra gets Recovery Info- new for watchOS 9

  1. It’s still the 2 hour rhythm for me. Despite being on WatchOS9. Did you turn on AFib? For that you have to indicate that you have been diagnosed with AFib by a doctor.

  2. Yep! And yes – have to say you have a diagnosed afib issue when setting up or turning on afib tracking.

  3. Struggling to make sense of your analysis here. Do you have any peer reviewed articles you referenced on this stuff?

    1. peer review article on which aspect?
      peer reviewed science on beta watchOS 9?????
      i specifically say I’ve seen nothing from garmin (above) in the way of published science around this

      Altini created hrv4training – there is a large amount of published science on his site covering how you can validly use HRV

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