If you’re anything like me, you’re an exercise nerd who cares about how their body functions. You worry about things like Resting heart rate, blood pressure, VO2max and even sleep quantity. Each has an impact on the way you move and feel throughout the day.
If you’re nothing like me, Congratulations! You’re pretty normal. I’m going to do my best to convert you.
Last year at some point, I decided to see what Fitbit was all about. I heard all about the different versions, variations and qualities of fitness trackers. Some had GPS and some were glorified phones. But when it came down to it, I wanted something that would track my heart rate and steps throughout the day. I wanted accountability to fitness, on my wrist as a reminder to focus on my health while also tracking heart rate. Not another toy that would force me to obsess over text messages or shoot lazer beams.
So I spent $99 at Target to get a Fitbit Inspire HR.
It’s bare bones but works great! Long battery life (charge it about once per week). The only gripe I have found is that during a hard workout, the measured heart rate jumps around once my heart bounces up higher than ~150 beats per minute.
Which bring me to the question, why does your tracking your heart rate matter?
Your heart rate says a lot about your health. First, I wanted to look at ‘bookend’ heart rate data, to assess my general health. The lower your resting heart rate, the stronger your heart muscle itself . As you adapt to exercise, our heart muscles gets stronger, allowing it to pump more blood with every beat. In one study, individuals with a resting heart rate lower than 70 beats per minute were half as likely to die from heart related illness than those whose resting heart rates were between 70-85.
Conversely, as you attain a higher level of fitness, your maximum heart rate goes up, relative to others in your age group. The higher your maximum heart rate, the stronger your heart!
Outside of the bookend data, there is importance in short term changes in resting heart rate. Variations in daily resting heart rate can be indicative of health issues – whether it is as simple as a lack of sleep or an illness abound – Resting HR can be an indicator of a change in health status. As an exercise guru, it also helps me with exercise prescription. For instance, if I wake up today with a resting heart rate of 55 but my ‘normal’ is 45, something is off. This information gives me a lot of feedback when structuring workouts – my own and my clients. It can tell me whether to push someone hard, or just make it a survive-the-day type of workout. In the end, my goal is to help you get stronger and FEEL better at the end of our workouts together.
As far as workout data goes, heart rate matters in comparing similar intensity/workloads. Let’s say you run two miles for the first time in six months. Your average heart rate during your workout will be relatively high, as your heart hasn’t adapted to the stimulus of your runs. And you probably regret eating all the donuts. After a month or two of training, you go on to run the same two miles at the same pace you initially ran. What you should see, is that your average heart rate will decrease with the same workload(distance).
At this point, this is kind of my bread and butter when tracking my own exercise on Fitbit. The other stuff is cool and I’ll dive deeper into other features another time but I felt this was an important piece to share if you happen to be tracking this kind of stuff on a daily/weekly/monthly basis! There are tons of other features like sleep, steps, community challenges, workouts that all mean something, and I promise I will get into them in the future!