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Understanding continual (24/7) optical HR data and resting heart rate

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More and more devices over the last 1-2 years have begun to include the ability to record your heart rate (HR) data around the clock.  No longer are you limited to just workout HR data, but now you can get it while you eat, sleep and work (and practice Valentine’s Day).  But the question is how useful is that data? And what can you actually do with it?  Further, does it really matter which device you use?

Well, ask and you shall receive!

The Basics:

The trend of gathering 24×7 HR data was really started with Basis, back a number of years ago with the Basis B1 watch.  And in many ways, they continue to be the company that does 24×7 data gathering the best (now with the newer Basis Peak). When they came out with the B1, they were the first to use an optical HR sensor in a consumer wearable product that monitored your vitals around the clock.  In their case, they did more than just HR, but also things like perspiration and skin temperature.  This allowed you to look at how your HR trended over the course of the day.  For example, you’d generally find it was lower at night and when you first woke up, and then higher throughout the day as you moved around.

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Of course, by itself none of this was particularly earth-shattering or unexpected.  Some of us had worn various HR straps for long periods of time to gather this data, but Basis made it effortless (just wear a watch), and without any uncomfortable chest strap.  Further, they also made the data easy to consume and understand.  I could glance at a dashboard and see well-smoothed data that gave me a macro picture of my day.  But I could also zoom in and get more clarity if I wanted – down to just a few minute slice.  One could see the exact moments your team struggled at the Super Bowl, for example.

All of which could be interesting in different scenarios.  So while I don’t personally have any use for knowing my reaction to the Panthers’ loss at the Super Bowl, I’m much more interested in knowing my lowest heart rate of the day.  This data can be useful in many ways.

Resting Heart Rate:

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The lowest HR of your day is commonly referred to as your resting heart rate (RHR).  Now technically speaking, per most medical definitions of this, it’s actually your lowest heart rate while awake.  Typically you’ll see slightly lower heart rates while sleeping.  So the term ‘resting’ is somewhat confusing as some may assume rest = sleep.  When in reality, rest = lying on the couch watching TV.

For example, if you confer with the American Heart Association, they note that RHR should be measured while sitting or lying:

“Your resting heart rate is the heart pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising…Resting, sitting or standing, your pulse is usually the same. Sometimes as you stand for the first 15 to 20 seconds, your pulse may go up a little bit, but after a couple of minutes it should settle down.”

Most devices on the market today can automatically detect your RHR and display it to you within the app or even on the device itself.  For example, on a Garmin Fenix3 HR, it’ll show your RHR within the heart rate widget during the day and then also on the Garmin Connect Mobile app itself under ‘Resting’:

2016-02-16 11.42.45 2016-02-16 11.42.02 2016-02-16 11.42.16

Turning to Fitbit, you can find your RHR value displayed, alongside a trending graph:

Fitbit-Surge-HeartRateGraphs Fitbit-Surge-HeartRateGraphs-Historical Fitbit-Surge-HeartRateGraphs-Historical2

And finally, other devices like the Apple Watch give you all the data but allow you to DIY figure out your resting HR.  If you just wore the device during day (likely since the Apple Watch doesn’t do sleep metrics), then you can comfortably just take your minimum HR value shown on the graphs.

2016-02-16 11.38.52 2016-02-16 11.38.16 2016-02-16 11.38.22

But wait a second you ask – how does a unit differentiate between sleep and non-sleep rest?  Well, that’s where things get a bit messy.  Some don’t.  Some just spit out the lowest value of the day.  And yet others get too conservative (Fitbit) and actually don’t take the lowest values at all (upwards of 10bpm higher than your actual resting HR).  As a result, I recommend you spend the first few days looking at patterns while you’re relaxing early in the morning.  Consider just lying around when you wake up and looking at your actual HR using the device, and then later in the day validate that the value shown on the app for RHR is your lowest HR value while awake.  Remembering that you usually want to lie down for 2-4 minutes to let things calm a bit.

For me, on most days the difference between an RHR value at sleep versus just being awake is only about 2-3bpm – so not enough to be of major concern. But if it’s 10bpm due to data gathering wonkiness, then that’s more problematic.

Now the value of all of this resting HR data is trending.  Coaches have long asked athletes to take and log their resting HR values day to day, usually using old-school methods like a heart rate chest strap, your finger taking your pulse manually, or some inexpensive devices that clip on your finger (this is how I used to do it).  However, some of those were cumbersome, and all required extra effort (which, let’s be honest, none of us wanted to do upon waking up).  So, data was often somewhat variable and inconsistent day to day.

For me, the most valuable use case of the data is around fatigue and predicting some sickness.  For example, my resting HR is usually in the 39-42bpm range.  When that rises, I know that my training load, travel load, or work load may be getting out of balance.  That might be expected for a heavy training week.  But if I’m on an easy training week and my resting HR has been climbing to 50bpm, then something might be amiss.  It may be other stresses, or other factors.  But it’s a key indicator that something isn’t right.

Historically I’ve found that as soon as my RHR breaks about 51-52bpm, I’m sick and/or feeling beat down/exhausted.  I may be lacking sleep or just overwhelmed.  For each person, how you respond to that will vary.  And what those values are will vary as well.  But most people that track RHR data do find fascinating patterns in it.

Not All Data Is Equal:

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Now, there are two core factors to be aware of when choosing a device that measures 24×7 HR:

A) Accuracy (duh)
B) Update frequency

In most cases, the vast majority of the devices on the market today actually nail the first part without issue.  Measuring your HR optically when not in sport/exercise isn’t terribly difficult.  Numerous models out there today that suck at sport/exercise are perfectly fine (even great) in non-sport conditions.  It’s usually the excessive movement that causes the challenges.

In fact, I can’t really think of a single mainstream optical HR sensor that does a poor job of optical HR accuracy at rest.

But next is arguably just as important: Update frequency.

This defines how often a device records your resting HR, and what triggers it to do so.  Some companies simply have straight-forward update/recording patterns.  For example, Basis is sampling constantly, and recording the average every minute (and totally exportable).  They are pretty much the leader when it comes to gathering this type of data and doing so correctly.  Fitbit is fairly similar as well here in terms of data frequency, where they sample constantly, but record at every 5s during 24/7 mode, and 1s during workouts.

Next you’ve got companies like Apple, which samples every 10 minutes for non-sport use.  So while you’re just watching TV or at the office, it’ll record your HR every ten minutes.  So it’s on a set schedule, but just not as often as Basis or Fitbit.  In most cases, this will still get the gist of things though, given the update frequency is low enough that it’s unlikely to be terribly far off when trying to find your resting HR since you’re bound to sit down for more than a 10 minute stretch at some point in the day.

Finally, you’ve got companies like Garmin which vary the update frequency by device.  This is likely due to battery constraints on certain models.  For example, the Vivosmart HR (a band) has a relatively poor/infrequent update frequency – potentially spanning hours in my testing.  Whereas the FR235 and Fenix3 HR can be much more frequent.  But, not as frequent as Basis, Fitbit, or even Apple.  Garmin appears to be basing whether or not to sample your HR based on the accelerometer.  In theory this would be smart usage of the battery.  But in reality, it does seem to miss large time gaps on certain days.

Ideally Garmin would follow their own precedence of allowing a user to select a variable or preset recording rate, just like they do for sport activities (and have for nearly a decade).  That would allow a user to decide between battery and more accurate data.

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Finally, there are some weird caveats with other companies.  For example – some companies (Fitbit) decide to ‘re-invent’ what’s considered a resting heart rate.  Even if my daily graph shows my lowest value at 39bpm, a company might say my resting HR is 48bpm.  Sometimes companies try and cross-reference this with when I’m sleeping – however not always.  So you’ll actually want to look at the graphs you have and validate that your lowest daytime value isn’t below your RHR value (which would indicate funny business on behalf of the company).

The Devices:

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Ok – so you’re ready to do this?  Or perhaps at least look into it more. Here’s the devices that as of today support 24×7 automated HR recording.  While I wouldn’t say it’s every single possible device on the market, it’s basically all the major ones that someone into fitness would want to be looking at:

Apple Watch

Basis B1
Basis Peak

Fitbit Blaze
Fitbit Charge HR
Fitbit Surge

Garmin Forerunner 235
Garmin Fenix3 HR
Garmin Vivosmart HR
Garmin Vivoactive HR

Jawbone UP3*
Jawbone UP4*

Microsoft Band
Microsoft Band 2

Moto 360 Sport*

Sony Smartband 2*

TomTom Spark/Runner 2

*Units I have not yet tried/used extensively

The following do NOT do 24×7 HR and why, despite you thinking they might do so:

Adidas Smart Run GPS/Fit Smart: Only workout HR
Epson 810: Only workout HR
Garmin FR225: Only workout, and single point in time (manual) HR checking
Mio Fuse/Link/Alpha: Only workout HR, however Mio Fuse can determine RHR at night if in sleep mode.
Polar A360: Only workout HR, 24×7 HR coming later this year
Samsung Gear Fit: Only workout, and single point in time (manual) HR checking
TomTom Cardio: Only workout HR
Under Armour Band: Kinda, it doesn’t do workout, just resting.

In my reviews of all these products, I cover details on recording rates and any limitations.

Wrap-up:

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Now as much as these devices will tell you your 24×7 heart rate rather accurately, it’s still going to be up to you to figure out what’s ‘normal’.  Meaning, normal for me is 39-42bpm for resting HR, as it starts to creep up into the upper-40’s, I then know something might be amiss.  But for you, your normal might be 50bpm or 55bpm, and it could be 60bpm until you’re at less-ideal states.

That’s where data collection just takes a while.  It’s not something you can look at just a week’s worth of data and know.  You really need many weeks of data, especially across different training conditions/cycles (for example a rest week versus the final week in a load progression).  The good news though is that collecting this data is as simple as just wearing a watch or band.  There’s no extra data work to be done.  So after you wear it for long enough, the trends usually become rather clear.

And finally – what about HRV,or collecting data during sleep with sleep trackers like Emfit, Beddit, and the Withings Aura?  Well, we’ll save those metrics and data types for another day.  I’ve got lots of sleep trackers at work as I sleep gathering such data to put together more details there soon.

With that – thanks for reading – and, I’d certainly love to hear some of the patterns folks have found with RHR or 24×7 data.

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186 Comments

  1. I was always curious when I had bad dreams (like when I am running for my life because something is going to kill me) if my heart rate would be higher so I started checking my fitbit HR when I wake up from a dream and my HR would be close to my RHR of 50 bpm.

    Reply
    • Neil Jones

      I’ve tried exactly the same – woken from a nightmare with my heart pounding, only to find I’m still at my RHR according my tracker. At first I thought this must be wrong as my heart felt like it was about to beat its way out of my chest, but when I focussed on it I realised that although my heart was beating damn hard, the actual rate at which it was doing so was still regular. I guess perhaps the body supresses our HR whilst we’re asleep in the same way it does our other muscles so we don’t swing our arms and legs around when we’re dreaming.

      Reply
  2. Jeff Kohn

    Hi Ray, can you comment on the stress score activity on the fenix 3 (and I’m sure other upper end garmins). Is this supposed to be the same as RHR? Also, I understand it uses variability as a factor, so is it inappropriate to use a scocsche? I would need to dig out my chest strap, correct?

    Reply
  3. tfk

    nice. will be v interested to hear about the sleep tracking.

    not sure about rHR other than being an interesting indicator to track in the mornings as a like for like comparison. morning HRV is better but good to have both. these are actionable to a degree. I have about 18 months of almost daily/personal/morning HRV+rHR data

    interesting to have info from throughout the day but I suspect not so useful/actionable

    you can get some interesting RHR values when approaching or in an overtrained state it can go LOW…not HIGH as would be expected. this is a STOP training sign.

    Reply
    • Good point on inability to get higher HR’s. For me, that tends to happen at higher values. Meaning, I’m unable to get into a higher HR zone, even though it feels like it should be significantly higher.

      Reply
    • Tim Grose

      I used to religiously record RHR on waking every day. I also sometimes saw low values when tired and even when ill (I think the enforced rest allowed it to drop!). I also saw fairly average values on race days when I still did OK. True that there were trends that could normally be observed but the variability of the readings in the end largely led to me to a conclusion that sometimes best just to get on with it. I did hear of people who would not race if their RHR was too high which seemed daft to me. Now that I have a device that can do 24×7 recording might start paying attention again given it’s just there.

      Reply
  4. Gary

    Have you got your hands on a prototype Fitpal?

    Reply
  5. Stuart Dunne

    ‘Whereas the FR235 and Fenix3 can be much more frequent. But, not as frequent as Basis, Fitbit, or even Apple.’

    You mean Fenix 3 HR here

    Reply
  6. MikeT

    Has anyone tried/tested any of the Garmin IQ apps that measure and record resting HR? I have a 920xt and a Tickr and just want to start recording my resting HR in the morning. There seem to be quite a few in the IQ store.

    Reply
    • R_Tellis

      I use one called simply “RHR” fire it up as soon as I wake up and it measures continuously for 1 minute and gives a result.

      Reply
    • Juanet Liebenberg

      If you use the RHR app for 920xt does it automatically update your resting heart rate on the watch? we update ours manually but it default to ” ” after being sync :-( are we doing something wrong?

      Reply
  7. Mister T

    You forgot the Epson 810 on the naughty list. It has an optical wrist HR. But doesn’t do continual monitoring. You can check HR at any time.

    Reply
  8. Jason B

    Thanks for this Ray! I just bought a FR235 because of your site and I’ve been playing around with HR. It appears that my training zones aren’t automatically updated based on RHR and max HR detected over history. It also appears that Garmin Connect doesn’t allow you to manually input RHR when creating custom training zones any longer.

    Reply
    • Tim Grose

      Yeah bit odd about min HR in GC. However I see there is now a RHR trend graph at link to connect.garmin.com (only populated with a compatible device like a 235) so you could argue min HR is no longer “constant”.

      However I see you can still set min HR in GCM and on the watches themselves of course.

      Reply
    • Yeah, I think we see some of these things not quite tied together yet. Some are slowly getting tied up – for example weight from GC can/will now update on certain watches via GCM (but not via Garmin Express).

      I suspect they’re slowly iterating through some of the integration components.

      Reply
    • John

      So that’s what I’ve been trying to get my brain around with Garmin Connect. Once I know my RHR and Max HR (and zone ranges), do I put that in GC, and will that sync to my 520? Or do I enter the values directly into the 520? Which settings sync or override the other?

      Reply
  9. EB

    There is the assumption that every pacing episode generated from the heart’s intrinsic pacemaker results in a full heart beat. This is not the case and is, in particular, not the case in both resting and athletes hearts.

    If you look up any research into the resting ECGs of athletes you will find lots of variation that results in extra irregularity. I am thinking in particular of Wenckebach Heart Block, but there are lots of other possibilities.

    A big complication is that more training is likely to increase the probability of dropped beats.

    I have watched lots of telemetry and saturation monitors during slow & irregular heart rates. Even clinical systems worth tens of thousands of pounds are rubbish at it.

    What is the real heart rate anyway? How many times a minute the heart’s pacemaker fires? How many times the main chambers contract in each minute? How many times a pulse can be felt at the wrist in each minute? All of these are different things.

    We also have to consider isolated and short runs of ventricular ectopic, which are entirely normal.

    As regards variability things get even more complicated. Every time most people breath in their heart rate goes up and every time you breath out it goes down (with time lag). If they take a deeper breath it varies more. If you look at your heart rate monitor you will be able to change it by how you breath.

    That isn’t some ninja meditation trick. Your pet dog will do it.

    And when we talk about HRV are we talking about variability in the heart pacemaker or variability in when the main chamber of the heart contracts? These are not the same thing.

    The question I would have for the manufacturers is how are you compensating for irregularity and how are you compensating for breathing rate/depth when producing a HRV number? My guess, having watched how big machines do it, is that they assume the irregularity is a measurement error (so repeat it until it goes away) and don’t bother to control for breathing rate/depth for HRV.

    Of course even if the numbers don’t equate with their names they can still be useful if there is a proven use.

    Incidentally, you can buy proper cardiac monitors on EBay. I’ve had patients turn up to clinic with results of them. Not sure how much they cost, but they definitely exist and would provide a gold standard to compare against, although you’d need to learn how to read them.

    Reply
    • Lots of good points. And the big reason I didn’t talk to HRV in today’s post (so many variables and far more complex). All of the RHR data today is just simple BPM type stuff.

      If we look at BPM accuracy, most chest straps are fairly well proven here as being accurate (outside of wear-type errors). Optical HR sensors of course vary quite a bit when it comes to accuracy, but I tackle those in a per-review basis. Some are great and on par with medical-grade, and other suck horribly. Brands mean nothing here.

      Reply
    • Alan

      Hi EB,
      Are you a cardiologist? I practice GI (the other contractile organs, haha). I have some interest in these monitoring devices and parameters. I still haven’t been able to figure out if HRV is anything worth tracking. Although there have been studies on this parameter as a predictor of outcomes of CHF in cardiology literature.
      I guess I always assumed that Polar was picking up part of the EKG to measure my heart rate. And that number is a fairly standard way to measure heart rate. One would think that optical measurements would be closer to a wrist pulse, as these optical devices measure capillary changes. The R wave of an EKG that is the indicator of a left ventricular contraction which should be the same as a wrist pulse. I also think that the HRV takes into account sinus arrhythmia. And in fact, this variability that is part of sinus arrhythmia is the measurement that the HRV promoters think is so important.

      Reply
    • EB

      Cool. As regards the RHR stuff I’d still bet a lot of money if you managed to get the raw data off then that they handle Wenckebach wrong.

      Not that it is not good if it works.

      Reply
    • EB

      Hi Alan, yes, although retraining as had my shoulder injured car jousting while cycling to work and don’t like wearing leads.

      If you look at a defibrillator synchronisation they seem to pick out the biggest changes in voltage. My guess was they work on a high frequency filter to pick out QRS complexes. I don’t think we’ll ever get the HRM companies to say what they do, but I bet it’ll be similar.

      I actually don’t think ECG and optical will be the same. Imagine an early ectopic; this will cause a QRS, but because of the Frank Starling Mechanism, the stroke volume is low. As a consequence I don’t think the optical device will necessarily pick it up. Ditto, short RR intervals in AF. I’ve seen bedside oxygen saturation machines get that wrong (I did say I quite like watching ECGs :) I worked in one hospital I could monitor the ECGs on other wards from CCU – did so regularly)

      HRV is useful if people publish well conducted studies that show it works. There are so many complicating things (eg. Is it going to be at the same time of day so as to correct for diurnal variation in T3 & is breathing rate and tidal volume standardised) that I would be suprised if it turned out to be more than marketing. I think we shall have to see. I wouldn’t spend big bucks on it at the moment.

      Reply
  10. Pretty much the same as you re: Garmin. My lowest RHR is generally 46-50, either right before waking or soon after waking. Occassionally I will have an outlier (43, 54). But if I have two days or so above 50, I know it makes sense to take a rest day. Great tool to prevent overtraining. (235)

    Occassional “spikes” in RHR after days where there are 2 or 3 activities taking place. Garmin knows about it… assume we will see a FW update soon. link to midpackgear.com

    Reply
  11. Anthony Tom

    Just something I’ve always wondered about but couldn’t find a definitive answer on. In general for sleep tracking do you have to wear the watch or band while you sleep? Or do you just like put in the times you go to sleep normally in like the setting or such? As for resting heart rate, I always forget to take and record it in the morning. I don’t think that I have remembered since the end of cross country. Planning on getting a FR235 sooner or later though for that data since it’s just kinda cool

    Reply
    • Tim Grose

      Yes you have to wear it if want to get a precise idea of when you slept and which periods were deep sleep or not. If you don’t wear it, the Garmin ones (at least) will assume you slept for the default time period you normally sleep that you can specify.

      Reply
    • Bill

      Between the Basis PEAK and the Garmin VSHR, the PEAK is a better sleep tracker and it’s really not even close. I have a ZEO bedside with a new headband (bought a bunch of spare headbands before ZEO went under) and from comparing the sleep charts (what sleep stage you were in at a given moment), while the Basis is pretty much spot on, the VSHR is way off.

      Reply
    • lquinta

      Tried a Basis Peak and it was just awful. It recorded HR and sleep stages for hours while it wasn’t even being worn. Really makes you question the accuracy.

      Reply
    • Bill

      That’s a good point! The PEAK does record a lot of false positives for times when you might just be watching a movie. To make matters worse, unlike with Garmin Connect, Basis offers no capability to go back and edit out those false positives.

      That said, for moments where I was using both the ZEO and the PEAK, the sleep graphs pretty much matched. PEAK even got the deep vs REM vs light vs waking periods pretty much right on with the ZEO.

      Garmin’s seems completely accelerometer-based, only offers deep vs light and even those were no where near what my ZEO records.

      Reply
  12. Simon

    You forgot Sony smartband2. It does 24/7 and exercise HR tracking.

    Reply
  13. floodx

    I have been using the Xiaomi Mi 1S Pulse Band ($20 shipped from Gearbest and others) for a few weeks now – definitely not main stream device and the company’s app leaves much to be desired – also measurement during workout leaves much to be desired (not even close to chest strap of course – I think it has to do with the fit of the band and probably the cheap sensor they put in it?) – non-workout seems spot on other than high readings ( maybe 1% of the time) when the band shifts on my wrist during natural movement.

    The interesting part of this band however is (on Android and to some extent on IOS) there are a couple aftermarket apps that allow setting of the polling rate of the band from basically any value down to continuous (defined as 15 sec on Android – I assume 1s* on IOS). Which makes it pretty much perfect for the kind of tracking you are writing about. I typically run HR every couple minutes normally (battery last at least 3-4 days on that rate) and as frequently as possible during a workout mainly to try to estimate calorie burn per day to match to my intake through fitness pal – usefulness? I am not sure I have figured that part out yet. But it is interesting to develop patterns none-the-less.

    Reply
  14. EB – that is a truly excellent post that certainly rings true.

    The interface between fitness gadgets and medical gadgets is blurring and people need to be aware that there is a difference in use and interpretation.

    Reply
  15. Perry

    Ray-
    Make this easy for me please. If I wanted to get RHR into TrainingPeaks consistently, accurately, and with the least amount of effort on my part possible….which unit should I get?

    Reply
    • Detlev

      Perry, In TrainingPeaks RHR is a manually entered Metric. It doesn’t matter which device you use. It just needs to be reliable.

      Reply
    • Yup! I used to enter it all the time there. I wish TP would work with companies to make it such that the RHR data can be automatically updated (i.e. from Garmin devices, etc…).

      Reply
    • FJ

      Hi Ray-

      Let’s relax the requirements then. What device will offer the most consistently accurate RHR value that an (amateur!) athlete can use to track overtraining or oncoming illness?

      I’ve been looking for a solution to this for what seems like ages, as I’m generally useless at taking my RHR first thing in the morning

      Reply
    • Meh

      My vote goes to fitbit charge hr, for measuring your resting easily. You should really remember that these devices are simply not accurate. In any case you must start cheap and keep your use case expectations down.

      Personally I have not found much use for resting hr data from my fitbit hr. I would not consider it very reliable either, but perhaps I haven’t yet spotted the trends that would be meaningful. Your causes for concern regarding forthcoming illness and overtraining can also be very personal. I’ve found that ease of use is the most critical factor for me, as a reliable measurement isn’t really useful if I don’t bother to set it up religiously 2-3 times a day.

      Also if you have some special condition the necessary metric to watch out for may have been never even implemented in the automatic 24/7 variety of these mainstream favorites.

      You should focus on identifying the first signs of illness and overtraining and treat resting hr as just one of the many possible metrics. Personally I’m using a simple walking test to see how my hr behaves in the morning. Essentially I use a mio fuse to determine how “easy” it is to get my workout hr above 140 by walking. This should be easy if everything is ok. On the other hand I do take caution if my workout hr is rising too fast when I first walk 3 floors down slowly, which I do always before my walking test. For me the key is to start the day slowly and simply expect to observe a small initial increase in the corresponding mio fuse workout hr.

      Btw I cannot recommend mio fuse to anyone, but basically any decent workout hr tracker will do the job. Just look at your graph after an easy workout for 5 seconds and you know if the hr levels are normal.

      Reply
    • John

      I will say one of the main ways I see RHR change is if I have a night out drinking – that will always add 5-7 beats to my RHR the next day.

      Reply
  16. Duane

    I’ve been on the fence for a while about these devices, but it seems that the two things I would like them to do well are where they really struggle:

    1) Recording during workouts. Maybe it is the sampling speed, but it seems like the numbers don’t agree well with what you see from a chest strap recorder.
    2) Recording HRV. I’m interested in HRV but I know that if I need to put on a strap of finger thingy each morning it will get skipped or missed easily, especially if the kids wake up first.

    I’m curious if any of the units you have seen can deliver on these two criteria.

    Reply
    • Workouts: It totally depends on the unit. Some suck at workouts (Basis), some are blah (Fitbit), some are mostly good (Garmin/TomTom), and some are great (none here, Scosche & Mio).

      Recording HRV: Not in workouts yet, only at rest, and only prototypes. I uploaded a video at CES in early January demo’ing it, to YouTube.

      Reply
  17. Dave Lusty

    Where you mention that all OHR sensors can be accurate it might be nice to also point out that the camera on the iPhone can also do this perfectly – it’s really not a challenge. I assume you’ll have seen the add HR measurement in the Withings app. Not related to the article but an interesting side note as I expect many aren’t aware this is possible as a way to measure and record RHR over time.

    Reply
  18. Brian

    Ray – This is a very topical post for me and I’d appreciate your thoughts on the following.

    A while ago in your Fitbit Charge HR review you made note of the unusually high RHR values from the device and how they were not in line with your expected RHR from years of monitoring it.

    I purchased a Charge HR shortly after that review for the main purpose of tracking RHR (along with steps which I had a Flex for previously) and I noticed the exact same thing…abnormally high values compared to my “norm.” They are clearly using some algorithm to calculate RHR “upon waking” that is skewing the numbers higher than expect. For example, I can view on my sleep graph that my HR will often dip to 42bpm before waking but the device has never recorded an RHR for me lower than 54.

    I don’t mind that all that much because it’s the trending that I’m most interested in, but lately it seems even that is not reliable (i.e. sleeping bpm of 42 yields 54 RHR one day, and 58 the next). Do you still have concerns with Fitbit’s RHR calculation and did you ever get an answer from them on how/why it’s calculated this way?

    Reply
    • Yup, exactly. It’s on my list of things to poke them about as I go into a Fitbit Blaze review, as I never received a logical/good answer in the past.

      Reply
    • Jeremy B

      Watching the Charge HR’s RHR during a cold a while back confirmed to me that their RHR needs some real work and I’ve quit looking at it.

      Reply
    • funny this is the same reason I upgraded from my flex to a charge was to see RHR and was shocked when I had it the first few days…when I manually do it I am in the 40’s but fitbit shows as 50ish and shows out of range below that number which seems goofy… since it is consistently off I can watch the trend but I did want it to update TP with my numbers as Ray indicated he was looking for but since the number is off it does not make much sense…

      Reply
    • Joe

      Any chance the blaze review is coming out this month? I’ve been thinking of preordering but would love to see your review first, especially on their claim of improved hrm during workouts.

      Reply
    • Once they release the unit (ship), I’ll aim to have a review out at the same time. I don’t know when that will be.

      Reply
    • Joe

      Ah fair enough. Wasn’t sure if you’d get a pre-release version or something. I like your reviews so I’m looking forward to your thoughts as the blaze seems to fit my needs better than most watches if it’s even adequate for workouts. Keep up the good work!

      Reply
    • Simon

      I too had a charge HR primarily for tracking RHR but found it fairly useless – the number it gave seemed to bear no relationship to my actual HR – it would say RHR 50 Bpm when I could be stood looking at the watch reading 40 – eventually ditched it.

      Reply
    • Totally have the same concern than you Brian.

      I don’t really know what Fitbit calls resting heart rate, but what I know is that what they mesure is consistently a 5 to 10 BPM higher value than what I mesure with a strap (Garmin FR630 and 620 before that) doing nothing on a couch.

      Reading Ray’s post I found out that the lower values I get are during sleep, which isn’t something I was aware of since you have to go into the 24 hour detail view to see that.

      Reply
  19. Chris

    I have a Fitbit Charge HR, and while it does a decent job of measuring HR, it annoys me that they decided to come up with their own definition of RHR. I can sit at my desk looking at my HR and write it down, then later find our that this is 5-8 beats lower than what Fitbit claims my RHR for that day is. Apparently they do something like “the lowest HR in the 30 Minutes after we decide you just got up”.

    To be fair, the trend still seems to be okay, but when I know the RHR is higher than what I have for extended periods during the day, that makes me question the whole thing. Will probably sell the Charge HR and the Fenix 3 to get a Fenix 3 HR…

    Reply
  20. Adam

    Mio Fuse was recently updated for sleep tracking and also records your resting heart rate at night. You have to manually put the Fuse into sleep mode though.

    Reply
    • jamey ward

      That is true on the Mio Fuse. I’m also curious to see if the new Mio Slice coming out this year will incorporate all day tracking of heart rate.

      Reply
    • what is happening in this picture? I’m confused.

      Reply
    • jamey

      inadvertent pic of me finishing a race. I thought I was uploading a pic by my name. and then I couldn’t delete it. sorry :0

      Reply
  21. I just upgraded to the Garmin Vivosmart HR (I had the regular Vivosmart before but replaced it because of some dead pixels) and I’m really enjoying the extra HR data. I haven’t found the sampling rate to be an issue with me, but I also haven’t recorded my RHR reliably in a while so I may be off by a bit. But the data geek in me LOVES having more data!

    Also, big plus for me is the ability to pair my Vivosmart over ANT+ during workouts. I’ve tested it against my HR strap and have found it to be very accurate even during intervals, so it’s a great option for me. I don’t think any other activity tracker with HR even compares for my usage.

    Reply
  22. Steve Martin

    Excellent article Ray!

    Reply
  23. Matthew B.

    Regarding the Fenix3 HR, I really feel/hope they do as you suggest and allow a user setting to allow for Smart, Low Freq (once every 10min), Med Freq (Once per minute), High (Once every 5s*) or something along those lines. This is their premier device and they’ve been pretty great about adding customization in other respects, so perhaps it’s just a bit early in the development.

    *Fitbit Charge HR/Surge supposedly measures every 5 seconds (“Stores heart rate data at 1 second intervals during exercise tracking and at 5 second intervals all other times”) and it’s battery manages to last approximately the same time as the Fenix3 HR. Now, the Charge HR is smaller, but it’s screen isn’t on 24/7, so a bit Apples to Oranges, but I really feel like the Garmin method can miss some crucial data, especially during sleep (even on the Fenix3 HR).

    Reply
  24. Adam

    At some point, you said a full Apple Watch Sport review was in the works. Is that still happening, or did I miss it somehow?

    Reply
    • It’s the singular reason I’ve been wearing the Apple Watch the last few weeks. 😉

      Reply
    • Alan

      You better hurry with Apple Sport watch review or you will have to amend it when the 2.0 becomes available. Might be soon…..

      Reply
    • There aren’t any plans for a new Apple Watch anytime soon. March is just some new Apple Watch bands. Sounds like whatever model is coming isn’t planned till September/Fall now.

      Reply
  25. Eli

    Not sure where this comment should go but want to make sure when you take this into account the large effort you make for your HRV review:

    – HRV laying down is less useful then HRV standing for determining overtraining status. This would mean HRV from a bed sensor is less useful then taking the measurement standing after waking up in the morning.
    – Will you include Ithlete or Jaybird Reign? Different products that seem to do the same thing of measuring HRV in the morning and telling you if you should push or rest

    Thanks

    Reply
    • At this point I don’t plan to do ithlete or or Jaybird Reign, but things could always change.

      Reply
    • EB

      Eli, makes a good point about lying/standing position. I’ve not come across the evidence as regards overtraining but will have a look now. There are good reasons though why position will effect autonomic nervous system function and hence cardiac pacemaker function, for which reason I would standardise it. I would go further and say it also needs to be standardised how long stood up too.

      Clinically BP, at diagnosis anyway, should always be measured supine and standing, with the standard being at 3 minutes. I usually do HR as well and think it has probably stabilised at that point. I’ve never looked at HRV though.

      Reply
    • EB

      I had a good search on pubmed.

      Maybe it was my searching, but it appeared
      1) what research there was was generally poorly designed and with very small groups
      2) I didn’t find anything significant that said HRV was better than just HR
      3) even studies that thought they had found a difference didn’t show any actual benefit of what they then knew
      4) when a study title includes the word “trotters” it does not mean, as I expected, it involved pigs. It relates to horses.
      5) there are a lot of people publishing research using machines that output numbers (apparently reflecting ANS tone), who don’t understand how the black boxes work (at all)

      Reply
    • Tried a few of those HRV apps and my experience so far was that their measurements have often been inconsistent within and between apps even if done immediately after each other. If I look at the data from my Garmin and Viiiiva straps, they kinda agree in half of their data but disagree in the rest, so that’s to be suspected too….

      Wondering whether anyone here has tried the vital monitor? It’s already kinda old technology compared with all the newest startups, but they claim that simple HR straps won’t do and advertise ECG level sampling rate and proper analysis.

      link to vital-monitor.com

      Reply
  26. Sam

    “Ideally Garmin would follow their own precedence of allowing a user to select a variable or preset recording rate, just like they do for sport activities (and have for nearly a decade). That would allow a user to decide between battery and more accurate data.”

    +1 ! I submitted them the same thing. Let us have the choice :)

    Great post.

    Reply
  27. raven

    For the Apple Watch, I recently acquired an app called HeartWatch that makes more sense of the data. I learned about it from this article: link to macstories.net

    You can use the Apple Watch to sleep which I’ve done a little bit with and is interesting. Basically, you charge while in the shower or for a little bit at night while you’re either watching a tv show or reading, etc. There’s some other apps that try to use the Apple Watch for sleep; I’ve looked at Sleep++ but that needs some work — it doesn’t leverage heart data at all, just the accelerometer.

    Reply
    • Very cool, I’ll have to poke at it a bit for my Apple Watch review.

      Reply
    • Bsquared

      HeartWatch is a really nice app, just picked it up yesterday and it has nice visualization of RHR, normal HR (during day), and exercise HR. Haven’t tried the sleep tracking, as I did that with Fitbit Force and didn’t find it useful or interesting as my schedule dictates how much sleep I get. Might try again, and see if there is any correlation between RHR and amount of sleep.

      Reply
  28. Trevor Feeney

    “For example – some companies (Fitbit) decide to ‘re-invite’ what’s considered a resting heart rate” – Nit-picky, but I’m guessing you mean “re-invent”.

    Reply
  29. Peter

    Hi Ray:

    Great site. Which watch would your recommend for optical HR of swimming (has to have a lap counter/calorie total), cycling (just calories), walking (number of steps) and running (distance)? I’m more recreational but do it everyday.

    Thanks. Any helpful advice would be appreciated. There so much out there, it’s confusing.

    Peter

    Reply
    • Unfortunately nothing out on the market yet aimed at optical HR for swimming. :( FINIS sorta-announced something at ISPO, but not yet available.

      Reply
    • EB

      Hi, Peter

      I attach a copy of a recording from a MIO fuse (practicing pacing intervals mainly). It always has a problem for the first couple of minutes. I’ve tried getting cold and then turning it on; didn’t help.

      I’m looking forward to the Finis device Ray mentions too. Hopefully it will be better.

      Incidentally, for your future use: I have found right down at the wrist doesn’t work well. Probably, because of wrist movement. The photo in Ray’s post of the Finis device has it nears the elbow. This is a good sign to me as it suggests they are going for the best accuracy they can get even if it makes it harder to sell.

      Reply
    • EB

      FWIW, I made an (unintentional) trial today. There were too few lifeguards so I ended up literally shivering waiting pool side. HR seemed OK and, given how cold I was, I doubt much blood was going to my skin. Unfortunately, despite this, it didn’t get rid of the initial error. In-fact it lasted longer.

      My guess now is that the FUSE works well once you’ve warmed up sufficiently to be sending enough blood to your skin. I guess to test this I should warm up outside the pool, but they might think I’m a bit nuts if I start doing star jumps at pool side…..

      Really hoping Finis’ upcoming device works ok. They got it right with the ear lobe monitor.

      Reply
  30. Chris Lowin

    I’m interested in 24/7 heart rate monitoring because I’m a sedentary office worker and want to know how little calories I’m burning in a 24 hour period. Are the calories burned statistics based on the heart rate data, or general calculations for my mass, age etc? If I can establish how many calories I’m burning accurately, I can change my diet and exercise to suit. Are these devices suitable for this task?

    Reply
    • EB

      Hi Chris,

      unfortunately even with heart rate data none of these devices is going to be able to give you an accurate calorie measurement.

      Reply
  31. Daniel Minnick

    “Not all data are equal” twitch . . . twitch . . . twitch. I suppose the jury is out on that one these days, but you do seem to like the scientific side of things, so I always imagined you as a “data are” kind of guy. Thanks for another great, informative article!

    Reply
  32. Jimmy

    Great article, thanks

    Reply
  33. David

    Ray, what about HR vs calorie burn?

    One of the reasons I wear a Fitbit Charge HR is in the naive attempt to more accurately estimate calorie burn since the Fitbit sample rate is every 5 seconds 24×7. A 150 lb person who has a very low RHR and low general heart rate during movement would imply good fitness and would burn less calories than a 150 lb sedentary person with high RHR who has higher HRs even during normal activities like walking. Fitbit claims the Charge HR modifies calorie burn 24×7 based not only on movement but also HR but who really knows the formulas they are using?

    Despite having all Garmin sports products and having tried Garmin bands in the past I keep coming back to Fitbit for the better software UI, greater number of partners, look etc. I’m quite happy with the Charge HR I have now but wonder if moving to the smaller, better looking Alta is ok or if I’m really harming calorie burn estimates etc. without optical HR? Maybe even harming accuracy of the device estimating sleep times too?

    Reply
    • I didn’t dive into calorie burn on this one, perhaps down the road again. Might be interesting to do a comparison of 24×7 calorie burn metrics between companies.

      Reply
    • David

      Might be even more interesting to do a comparison within the same companies just between their HR and non-HR products. I’ve often wondered what calorie number differences I would get if I had a Charge and Charge HR next to each other on the same wrist. Or Vivofit and Vivosmart HR etc. It should make the HR’s effect on calorie estimates more obvious then. If the darn numbers are nearly identical it might be worth giving up 24×7 for me just to get the thinner, better looking form factors available if you do so…

      PS: make sure you and The Girl wear some kind of tracker that automatically tracks sleep after the expansion arrives… someday looking and that data will be shocking to you I promise. Congrats again.

      Reply
    • Yeah, I’ve done a little bit of that here and there. I think in the FR235 or Vivosmart HR review, where I looked at calorie counts between two identical products (one with/without strap). It was surprisingly close within the same product family.

      Reply
  34. The upcoming pebble time optical HRM (“TYLT VÜ Pulse”) is going to take measurements every 30 minutes. Is that terrible or acceptable?

    Reply
    • It’s not ideal. If battery life is a concern, I’d prefer they do some variant of what Garmin is doing in terms of the trigger be the accelerometer. Otherwise, 30mins is just a shot in the dark.

      Reply
  35. Hey Ray,

    I find Fitbit’s HR approach to be kind of deceptive on the reporting side of things.

    Do you have any tips or tricks to share with us on how you can have a broader view to better understand this data ?

    As far as I’m concerned here’s what I do :

    – I rely on a 3rd party iOS app to push HR data onto Apple Health on my iPhone : this allows me to get a broader view of the data (month to month evolution over the past year).

    – I’m into the process of exporting all of my sports/fitness data (Garmin for Workouts and Fitbit for Health/Fitness) to make a nice dashboard using Power BI. The correlations between all these metrics is fascinating (ex : drop of HR when the number of km rises and so on).

    Reply
    • Meh

      If you can make any decisionwise meaningful dashboard, I think your experiment would be very very interesting. Lots of data geeks here and power BI is both free and user friendly tool. Please post your findings after you get into it!

      Reply
  36. Alan

    I am also interested in the calorie parameter. I used to think that Polar would compute calories differently based on heart rate, body weight factors, and comparison with calorimetry data. So that running with a heart rate of 120BPM for 30 minutes would not be exactly the same calorie burn as rowing with the same heart rate and time. I did email Polar, and they tell me that the calorie calculation is just based on heart rate. No difference in the activity. I wonder if that type of calorimetric data is available on a consumer basis?

    Reply
  37. Richard

    Hi Ray, really appreciate the quality and depth of your reviews.

    Its a real shame about the HR recording frequency on the Fenix 3 HR. I really wanted one. Do you think its likely Garmin will introduce an option to alter the rate? If so I think I’ll hang on and wait. If not then I’m looking for the most accurate and granular 24/7 HR device which seems to be the Basis Peak? Maybe I should buy a chest strap to go with that to circumnavigate the inaccurate workout readings. I presume it would take continuous readings from the chest strap as it does from its own watch strap?

    Thanks!

    Reply
    • I expect that Garmin will probably continue to tweak the 24×7 recording rate over time, as they have with their existing products. The Fenix3 gives them far more battery power to do so than the VivosmartHR did, or the FR235. I’d love to see a ‘Geek’ mode that burns at a much higher battery rate for 24×7 HR that perhaps finds a medium of about 3 days.

      Reply
  38. David

    I suspect Fitbit in their Charge HR modified their definition of RHR to avoid displaying what likely is frequent optical HR false readings. In my experience while resting or low heart rates are read correctly MOST of the time there always seem to be “moments” when as you’ve said Ray, it loses the plot. For example your real RHR might be lets say 50 at night but if the optical gets messed up as you toss and turn even for a moment and records at false 35 then simply showing the lowest reading (35) would lead to complaints their RHR is inaccurate. I think Fitbit made their custom formula to try to mitigate this.

    My Garmin 235 does the same but does show absolutely low RHR (no adjustment) and in the weeks I used it for sleep it was accurate most nights but every few days it would show a radical error that I know just wasn’t right. I have a fairly high RHR but the Garmin would sometimes error and show I’m an Olypic runner some nights as a momentary blip.

    I think again this is what Fitbit tries to avoid. We just need them to be accurate all the time and problem solved LOL.

    Reply
    • Patrick

      makes a certain amount of sense, seems to be common across devices too – i note Ray’s vivosmart hr review also mentions the reported RHR as being higher than what he actually sees.

      seems these devices are either thinking they’ve messed up or that you’re asleep when you get the lowest readings (i’d agree it seems like asleep or awake shouldn’t matter for RHR).

      without knowing how they actually decide which readings to pay attention to it is hard to know whether there is any value in the RHR data – is my RHR high this morning because i’m fatigued/sick or did the device just ignore all the times when i was actually resting?

      i’m keen to get a fitness tracker primarily for the recovery metrics but there just doesn’t seem to be a device available that would work for me. the jaybird reign has a lot of appeal but if i’m going to wear a band on my wrist i damn well want a real clock on it!

      Reply
    • FJ

      Hi Patrick

      I didn’t know the Jaybird Reign even existed, so thanks for mentioning it! I’m in the opposite camp as you here though. I already have a perfectly nice watch, something I’m not keen to replace with any of these ugly smartwatch contraptions, so I much prefer a discrete band I can wear (potentially on the forearm if I want to hide it away from view)

      Ray

      Do you have any plans to review the Jaybird Reign? They seem to market it as a tool to help recovery, which I can only assume would include RHR tracking. This is exactly the kind of stuff I’m looking for :)

      Reply
  39. Andy Turnbull

    Re: Resting Heart Rate versus Sleeping Heart Rate.

    Thinking about it, the definition of resting heart rate was probably one of convenience, rather than any scientific reason. It’s hard to find the sleeping heart rate during a visit to the doctor.

    However, with modern tools, I think it’s easier and more convenient to take a sleeping heart rate than a resting one. That value is going to be more reliable too, as experimental conditions vary much less as you sleep!

    My Garmin 235 (pictured) records minimum heart rate over a rolling 7 day period, and this always falls when I sleep. The Garmin Connect website and phone app link in sleep data and only record waking rhr for posterity. Which for me is much more variable than the sleeping value.

    In terms of physiology I don’t see any reason why the sleeping value can’t be used to monitor recovery – I think it’s more reliable.

    Cheers, Andy

    Reply
    • EB

      Hi Andy, I’d agree. I used to work for a consultant cardiologist who was of the opinion that true RHR should be measured (in in-patients) first thing in the morning trying not to wake the patient. The purpose was to look for effects of levels of Thyroxine and not exercise, but I can’t think of a good reason it shouldn’t apply here.

      Reply
  40. Andy Turnbull

    Ps here’s another photo from last week – this was the morning after I’d been racing on the velodrome until 10pm, then only getting 6 hours sleep. Rhr was up 15 beats!

    I took the next day really easy!

    Reply
  41. Sean Ormerod

    Not sure if this has come up?

    link to kickstarter.com

    Reply
  42. Feodora

    I got out for a brisk 5km with my other half :)

    Reply
  43. Lars

    So, I’m actually in the market for one of these to track my resting heart rate. As a coach mentioned at the TrainerRoad blog (link to blog.trainerroad.com), “Much like with power measurement, as long as the mechanics and circumstances in which you gather your RHR data are the same, you can rely on that metric. I use that same data point for trend analysis, all the while knowing that it isn’t what I deem a true waking RHR.” He’s talking about a Fitbit Charge HR. Ray, do you agree? It seems that even though it does some weird things around RHR, it’s the best option around to do this (for half the price of a Basis Peak).

    Reply
    • Watch for deals. I got my Basis Peak for $111 USD. My wife paid $124 for her Charge HR.

      Reply
  44. Mike Detmar

    Thank you very much for your in-depth article. I’ve been reading some of the reviews on your site for the past couple of weeks and they’ve been very helpful. I’ve been researching the Garmin GPS watches.

    Currently I use an Apple Watch for my fitness tracking and occasional running. Recently I started using HeartRate to track both HR and Sleep. The sleep tracking is supposed to be automatic, but I recently found that I had to manually click a button to upload the data into Apple Health. Not a big deal. I primarily use my device for notifications, clock, timer and weather so, I find that I can wear it all day and night, then charge it in the morning while showering and it will do fine.

    I also use the Sleep ++ app. It seems to give you more granular feedback on your sleep, but appears that you have to tell it when you’re going to bed. And for me, the data shows in the Sleep ++ app, but never in the Apple Health App. Others in the comments have suggested HeartWatch. I’m going to give that one a try too.

    I look forward to your upcoming articles.

    Reply
  45. Albert W

    Thank you so much for accumulating the info on those devices. I had piecemeal assembled which devices had 24/7 HR monitoring but now you have everything in one place! I’m most interested in the Polar A360, but I’m curious about where you found the info that they plan to have 24/7 HR monitoring. I checked their website re: updated and while they mention continuous workout HR monitoring, it doesn’t mention 24/7 monitoring.

    Reply
    • I’m not sure if they’ve listed it anywhere else, but they sent it over to me in a statement that it’s being worked on for 2016.

      Reply
    • Thanks for the extensive info Ray. Do you know if 24/7 HR monitoring will be implemented on existing A360 devices (via firmware updates) or it is planned to release a new Polar product featuring this functionality?

      I asked directly to Polar through Twitter and they didn’t give me any new info.
      link to twitter.com

      Reply
  46. Karen

    I have been tracking my resting heart rate overnight for a couple of months. I’m using my garmin 235 in activity mode to force it to sample continuously. My rate has varied from 35 to 58. The major trend is that doubling my calorie intake from 2000 up to 3000-4000 will consistently produce an increase of about 12-13bpm. This is not related to exercise volume or intensity. I’m off season so I’m pretty consistently running slow 10ks then a slow 20k once a week at best. I am undecided whether this is my metabolism self-regulating upwards to help keep my weight stable (good) or stress from making my gut work too hard (bad). Initially I felt my HR increased on very hot nights but I need to reach a stable calorie intake to test that one out.

    Reply
  47. Bob190

    Ray .. any word from Basis/Intel on a new model to replace the Peak?

    While I wear my Apple Watch as an every day watch, I still wear the Peak at night as I believe it provides the best RHR data and excellent sleep tracking. The AW unfortunately does a poor job with both sleep tracking and RHR tracking IMO.

    Reply
    • They haven’t announced anything. Hard to say in the post-acquisition realm as to what their plans will be. That’s always been a bit of my concern with the acquisition. It feels like product succession logic goes out the window a bit.

      Reply
  48. Dan

    Hi,

    I am curious why everyone uses optical hr when it uses so much battery. Wouldn’t battery be better using the old way (ECG?? Like on gym/exercise machines with metal plates) You could have a band on each arm talking by Bluetooth and presumably it would be more accurate and the battery would last for ages?

    There must be some obvious reason I’m missing.

    Reply
    • “There must be some obvious reason I’m missing.”

      Because a significant portion of the population dislikes wearing HR straps. A much more significant portion than that would really dislike them if they had to wear them 24×7 for weeks/months on end. :)

      Reply
    • Dan

      Yes but I’m not talking about straps. Why not two wrist bands (one on each arm), communicating via Bluetooth…

      Reply
    • EB

      The electrode on each arm would need to be connected by a wire to the other electrode. ECG work by measuring potential difference between two points eg. It has to be relative. You can’t do that wirelessly.

      But like those mittens your mum got you when you were little with the cord between them so you couldn’t lose them.

      Reply
    • Dan

      Aha that explains it. Knew it had to be something simple. Thanks! Hope someone thinks of a way to reduce the battery drain at some point – it would be great to have a few weeks between charges.

      Reply
  49. Jim Correia

    Do any of the companion iOS applications for these devices write the heart rate data to HealthKit?

    (I’m most curious about the Garmin Fenix HR, which might not be in a lot of people’s hands yet.)

    Reply
    • None of the Garmin or Fitbit devices provide 24×7 HR to Apple Health.

      Reply
    • Jim Correia

      Thanks, Ray. That’s unfortunate.

      Apple Watch doesn’t meet my running needs, and the Garmin product has shortcomings for me as an all-day watch, so I’m in what feels like a ridiculous position of carrying two watches with me most days.

      Reply
    • Bob190

      The Basis Peak iOS app does write HR data to Apple Health.

      Reply
  50. Ottó

    Adidas Fit Smart do 24×7 HR with new fireware.

    Reply
  51. Albert W

    Does the new Garmin Vivoactive HR support 24/7 heart rate monitoring? The Garmin website is ambiguous about this, but is pretty clear for the Vivosmart HR and 235 that they are are 24/7 HR monitors.

    Reply
    • Jesper

      Try read DCR review of it :-) It pretty much states that is sux.

      Reply
  52. Jesper

    Very interesting article. Thanks.
    Does anybody have any experience with heart rate vs allergies. Being food (gluten or lactose intolerence) or pollen??? One would suspect the RHR/HR to go up, when the body is fighting stuff like that???

    Reply
  53. Rod

    I am a developer of smart phone apps for resting heart rate and have a few comments on how these optical measurements are often made. As stated in previous comments they detect changes in blood flow to the capillary bed and should correlate very well to a wrist pulse measurement made over the same period of time. However, if the measurement is much shorter than the 15 to 30 second time period people use when taking the pulse themselves, then effects due to breathing and HRV can significantly mask trends you are looking for. Each product may or may not deal with this by using multiple data point for a final reading. Actually one of the biggest issues we have seen after getting good data to begin with is finding a way to present the data so that short term and long term trends stand out of the noise.

    Reply
  54. Artur G

    For those of you interested in resting HR, here’s a recent article published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal regarding the relationship of resting HR and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality.

    link to cmaj.ca (full text version)

    or link to cmaj.ca (abstract)

    Basically, get your resting HR to 45 (unless it’s already there)!

    Reply
    • Meh

      Nice find. Does anyone know of studies that would specifically focus on effects of combination of heartrate monitoring and increasing exercise in making improvements (even statistical) in some health measure?

      I have a fitbit charge hr, which may not be very accurate regarding rhr, but it would still be interesting to know if there even exists any evidence in using rhr tracking to create health effects.

      Reply
  55. JC

    Ray, do you use the Recovery Time and Recovery State products from garmin devices to help estimate your training state? Or do you believe RHR is better?

    Thanks.

    Reply
    • I tend not too, mostly because I rarely believe what I see there. I’ll get wonky numbers that are just too long for recovery, especially for a multisport athlete.

      I’m not sure RHR is a better answer, but I do find it helpful. And I think to some degree, the most important stress indicator for a triathlete/runner is really how your legs feel. If your legs are zapped, then honestly running hard again isn’t going to help it (whereas cycling or swimming may help).

      Reply
  56. Jakob

    Hi Ray, As a general query on optical HR devices for training, can you hint what HR watch(es) has/have been the most accurate in your experience so far, in terms of HR metrics?

    While the Garmin Fenix 3 HR may be the most feature-rich HR watch, I got the impression reading e.g. the review of TomTom Multi-sport Cardio that HR data from the latter may be more accurate during peaks and intervals (and even more so than their later Spark / Runner 2 Cardio).

    Reply
    • In general, from best to worst:

      Great:
      Valencell Sensors (seen in Scosche Rhythm+)
      Mio by Philips sensors (seen in Mio products*, TomTom Cardio, Adidas Smart Run GPS)
      Epson sensors (as seen on Runsense 810)

      Mostly good (a few minor caveats):
      TomTom Spark (using LifeQ sensor package)
      Garmin Elevate (specifically on Fenix3HR & FR235)

      Mixed to Poor:
      Apple Watch (sometimes good, sometimes horrible)
      Microsoft Band 2 (hard to know for certain because recording rates so horrible)
      Fitbit sensors (good on stable, bad on intervals)
      Polar A360 sensor (super slow to react)

      *Note that the Mio Link specifically can experience connectivity issues over ANT+/BLE, which some people mis-identify as optical HR issues. Simply put, they just screwed up the antenna design, nothing to do with

      Reply
    • Jakob

      Great help, Ray, thanks!

      I hope the major brands start getting their optical HR sensors in order or revert to Mio or similar. I bet there are more people than myself prioritizing these three: Accurate strap-free HR (especially during peaks), Quick-fix GPS and Cable-free syncing. Seeing both Garmin and TomTom moving to worse-performing sensors may hurt customer confidence in vendor priorities.

      Reply
  57. Albert W

    Just read your Vivoactive HR review. Seems like a pretty awesome device. So should it be added to your list of 24/7 HR monitoring units?

    Reply
  58. Melvin Peoples

    Good article but I don’t agree with resting heart rate being while you’re awake. I got the following from http://www.heart.org, “Your resting heart rate is the heart pumping the lowest amount of blood you need because you’re not exercising. If you’re sitting or lying and you’re calm, relaxed and aren’t ill, your heart rate is normally between 60 (beats per minute) and 100 (beats per minute), Stein said.” This is somewhat confusing too as this describes me when I’m sleep or semi-sleep and of course there are different stages of sleep. I still say you write very good articles and I appreciate you and people like you who take the time to keep people like me informed. Thanks

    Reply
    • Melvin Peoples

      I had no idea you had this many comments. I would’ve kept my 2 cents to myself.

      Reply
  59. Richard

    Hey Ray

    Hoping you or someone can help me make a decision on this as reading reviews is not conclusive.

    I’m only interested in analysing granular resting 24/7 heart rate, and can’t decide which is more accurate; the Fitbit Charge HR or the Basis Peak? I can see that the accuracy is questionable for both of these devices but they seem to be the best in their class.

    Please help

    Reply
    • Rod

      I’m not sure exactly what you mean by “granular” resting 24/7 heart rate, but many people find a single measurement made in the morning just after waking up works well to follow RHR trends. There are good smartphone based apps using the device’s camera that do a good job for this. Ray’s focus was on 24/7 devices so the use of a smartphone app really doesn’t apply to the general discussion, but I thought it was worth mentioning to those interested in tracking a single morning reading.

      Reply
    • Richard

      Hi,

      Sorry, what I meant was I’d like chosen device to continually measure during the day while I’m not exercising so I can analyse the results later. It’s not to just work out my average resting heart rate.

      I think the Basis Peak is the best for this due to its frequency of sampling, however I’ve heard good things about the Charge HR too.. Was just hoping for a steer as to which device might be better suited to that

      Reply
    • Meh

      I haven’t used peak, but charge hr is certainly more user friendly overall. Issues to consider with charge hr overnight measurements:
      – if it is cold and you’re wearing long sleeves: the device can find its way from under the sleeve to over it, thus partially blocking measurement. For me this may happen twice a month during winter.
      – if you need accurate info on your daily deviation from absolute minimum rhr, the charge hr will be worthless to you. This is because it will never give you the lowest measured hr, but is using some algorithm to average daily measurement errors with real data. This means that there will always be tiny random deviations coupled with constant increase slightly above your absolute minimum rhr. Basically you can not know if your rhr has risen 5 or whether there is a more or less random measurement issue.
      – charge hr is fantastic from usability perspective (there is nothing easier to use on the market), but I believe it has not been designed to stay put on your arm. This means it moves around easily, is mixing daylight to data quite often, and may not be the best solution for constant data because it will not stay at the same position.

      All things considered, you should try peak on your arm vs charge hr on your arm. If peak is unpractically cumbersome, then you do not have anything better than charge hr.

      Reply
  60. Jesper

    Ray,
    First a suggestion: Could you please add retail prices to the device list above. And maybe a 1-3 star rating of how good you see them at RHR tracking.

    I’m very keen on tracking my RHR. Unfortunately I bought my Fenix 3 a few month to early, so I have the non-HR version. Stupid me for not paying attention to Garmin’s release cycle, but happy it was not touch screen Fenix 4, they came out with this time :-)

    I’m writing, in hope the all-knowing tech guru (you) can provide some guidance on devices. I could upgrade to a F3 HR, but I would not want to wear that, while doing bike/car/house repairs, garden work and the such. Nor would I want to sleep with it. Too bulky. And then I’d need to get something like the Vivosmart HR to supplement it. And I don’t feel like sending another 750$ total to Olathe, KS.
    Could also just get the VS HR, but then I’d probably end up wearing that to the office, and not be able to take advantage of the F3’s better display for the smart functions (which I hope will start to improve at a higher rate)

    So my question: Are there any viable alternative options to having one of the listed devices?? Maybe a Scosche RHYTHM+ and either a mobile app or an IQ app on the F3??? Preferably something that would integrate into Garmin connect.
    You think there is any chance Garmin could be talked into enabling 24/7 tracking with an external strap, on their newer non-HR Fenix & Forerunner?? I know it could potential steal som sales from the new products, so doing it on VivoActive would be dumb, but I doubt many e.g. F3 non-HR owners are going to upgrade just for this, so the value of showing support for existing users, is probably higher.

    Next time you talk to Garmin, maybe you could also suggest them to start selling the Vivosmart HR in a bundle with their high end products. I could see people go for a EDGE 1200 + Vivosmart HR bundle, so they get a all day HR tracker to use instead of a chest strap. Could even be a software limited vivo, that did not have any running function. Or go all in and get a EDGE + VivoActive HR, so you get an all in one combi.

    Reply
  61. Jesper

    Sorry. I forgot to ask. How does the whole Garmin eco system (mobile app, connect etc) cope with using multiple devices?? Say you have a Fenix 3 HR, but use your EDGE for cycling. Would the HR data from the EDGE magically make it onto the Fenix, so the intensity minutes, calories etc. would show the combined data?

    And what about overlapping data. Say I rode my bike to work with the edge + chest strap on, but also wore a Vivosmart HR to track activity while at work. Would that make it all count double?

    Reply
  62. Albert W

    Saw Jesper’s post, and I’m another person who wants to know his RHR. Aside from knowing HR on demand and 24/7, here’s another really important consideration: which devices provide an easy to digest graphical format for 24/7 HR and avg daily RHR via the device, the app or the website.

    Here’s been my experience (yes, I’ve had several trackers):
    Fitbit Charge HR: easy one tap access to avg daily RHR and 24/7 HR on their app in nice graphical format. The best.
    Vivosmart HR: Takes about 3 taps to get to graphical output on their app for RHR and 24/7 HR. Would be ideal if this weren’t buried in the app.
    Basis Peak: Only graphical output of 24/7 HR on the website. No graph for RHR– you have to infer it from the graph, meaning RHR is not separately graphed. (An aside: I had terrible bluetooth connectivity problems for all 3, yes 3, Basis units that I had.)
    Microsoft Band and Band 2: Only graphical output of 24/7 HR on app and website. No separate graph for RHR. Takes 2 taps to access on app (and overall least informative app).
    Apple Health (I don’t own an Apple Watch, my other devices upload to the app). Graphical output of 24/7 HR only, no graph of RHR. Easy upfront access on app.

    If you want to know your avg RHR on a daily/monthly basis, the Fitbit ecosystem is the best followed by Garmin. I wear both the Charge HR and Band 2– the Charge HR because the heart and activity data info the on the app is the best, the Band 2 because, while it really sucks at activity tracking, it’s display and notifications system is the best. When the Vivoactive HR comes out, I’m going to check it out in hopes of wearing a single device.

    Reply
    • Meh

      Very good information, I had some reservations and you actually confirmed what I had gathered from the reviews.

      I think the usability and usefulness are still not a top priority to many brands out there. Seems like they aim to differentiate themselves by features alone, which really puts me off purchasing more devices.

      Reply
  63. Tommy

    Does anyone know if Fitbit have changed their rhr calculations recently? I’ve lost 10bpm over the last 2 weeks. Either that, or I should seek medical advice?!?

    Reply
    • Yes, they changed the algorithms to be more accurate (previously it would over-estimate). I talk a little bit about it in my Fitbit Blaze In-Depth Review from a week or two ago.

      Reply
    • Brian

      Boy, have they ever.

      Ray – I was the guy that asked above if you had found issue with the RHR numbers coming from the Fitbit devices…well, I had an update from my Charge a few days ago. RHR numbers have plummeted from a 55-58 typical average to a reading last night of 48.

      Incidentally, about 48 is where I expect it to be so maybe they finally got it right. I’m sure this change was in no small part due to your feedback to them on the topic, so thanks very much for that.

      Reply
  64. Michal L

    Hi guys!

    If you had to chose one to check steps, HRM (for running and wieghtlifting) and notifications which one would it be?
    Garmin Vivosmart with a HRM band?
    Garmin Vivosmart HR
    Polar A360

    I dont need GPS nor any other “training tracking”

    Many thanks :)

    Reply
  65. James Westgate

    Just want to mention I get very accurate data (I’ve checked against my Garmin strap) from an app on my phone that uses the light + camera to do an optical HR measurement. useful for quickly recording RHR eg just before bed.

    Reply
  66. Tina

    I’m having serious problems determining my resting heart rate. I hooked up my phone to a charger, switched on bluetooth, used an app that does HR recording continuously (Wahoo Runfit) and wore my Scosche Rhythm + for a few nights. My lowest HR while sleeping is around 45. Yet when I just sit around and do nothing it’s at around 60. If I look at the values when they are measured I can simply ‘will’ my HR down to below 50. (Don’t get me started on a maxHR attempt during a spinning bike lesson where I looked to intensely at the number projected on the wall, and all of a sudden my HR fell by about 10bpm, when I was approaching 95%.. Ouch!). Thus 45 vs 50ish vs 60 is a substantial difference, and it also makes a difference for training zones. I have no idea what to use.

    Reply
  67. Jeffrey

    Ray (or others),

    Which product would you recommend for my active, 77 year old father who should be keeping a 24/7 eye on his heart rate throughout the day. About a year ago, he had a heart valve repaired but is back to exercising and doing projects around the house. He does not have a smart phone but does have a Mac. Less complicated is better but it would be nice to have both the time and heart rate easily accessible. We also want to be able to share data with the doctors.

    Thanks,
    Jeffrey

    Reply
    • The lack of smart phone piece is going to make things tough to be honest. That rules out the Basis Peak for example, which is what I would have recommended for him. It’d be easy to use and show the HR continuously.

      Given that gap, I think the next best option would be something like the Garmin Vivosmart HR. That does sync with a Mac, and could be used to check out his HR. Then you (or him, or doctors, or the cat), could login and show HR charts via Garmin Connect. Easily printable by day/etc…

      Just my two cents.

      (But of course note, it’s not a medical device, blah, blah, blah).

      Reply
    • Jeffrey

      Thanks Ray! That sounds good. He spoke with his Dr and they want him to hold off for now. It seems that it may make heart patients more anxious when they see their HR climbing.

      Reply
  68. Steve B

    awesome review, as ever. One suggestion is that you review the software that the data is viewable through. With this much data at our finger tips, I am trying to get an expanded view of my heart rate. Some graphs I see within your reviews are detailed and expanded, but I have yet to find them.

    Thanks

    Reply
    • Hmm. All of the charts in this post were from the various respective apps (i.e. Garmin’s app, Apple’s app, etc…).

      The only time I use charts not available publicly is when comparing HR straps or power meters. For that I use some custom software. They’re somewhat boring charts though, just two lines plotted showing differences.

      Reply
  69. Amit Shetty

    What do you think about the feature difference between Jawbone UP3 and the fitbit/apple where the UP3/4 can only track “passive heart rate”. Seems like a gap if you want to track your workouts?

    Reply
  70. Adam Gray

    Hi Ray. Great review as always! Can I just seek some clarification, if I set my Fenix3 HR to every second recording, I presume this will not impact the 24/7 HR tracking and refers to GPS and other recordings during recorded exercise only?
    Many thanks

    Reply
  71. P Gallardo

    Thanks for the extensive review Ray. Do you know if 24/7 HR monitoring will be implemented on existing A360 devices (via firmware updates) or it is planned to release a new Polar product featuring this functionality?

    I asked directly to Polar through Twitter and they refused to give me any info.
    link to twitter.com

    Reply
  72. Debbie

    Hey I’m about to pull the trigger on a Fenix 3 HR. The changes coming on June 1st regarding Clever Training, do they include the 10% discount on the Fenix 3 HR? Thanks!

    Reply
  73. Has anyone found a 24×7 RHR device that can correctly monitor someone with a low RHR?

    I’ve been following a very strict (coached) cycling program and if I use a Garmin chest strap, a Finger Pulse Oximeter or the Scosche – RHYTHM+ I can read a RHR as low as 34 if I am fully resting or 37-39 if I’ve trained hard the day before.

    I’m trying to find a device that I can wear 24×7 to monitor sleep and auto report my RHR, currently I spend about 2-4 mins each morning attaching a device, lying down and monitoring!!

    I’ve just got a 2nd hand JawBone UP3, the UP app tells me yesterday my RHR was 54 and today it was 48 bpm.

    However each morning I’ve used my finger pulse oximeter and it read 39 this morning , and yesterday it was 35.

    I have a Fenix 3 and was thinking about the HR version but I’ve tried it and it’s too bulky for sleeping IMHO.

    I’m watching with interest to see what/if Apple announce but was wondering if folk have found a 24×7 device that can read low RHRs and not be too bulky to sleep wearing it?

    Reply
  74. Robert

    I’ve noticed on my Garmin Forerunner 735XT that my very lowest waking heart rate is indeed displayed on the Garmin Connect website under Resting, eg, for the last 3 days: 47, 43, 49. And those points are also marked on the graph which shows up on the watch face. But the number displayed after RHR on the watch face is always higher than the lowest reading, eg, 8-10 points higher. So there must be some kind of averaging or calculation or algorithm that Garmin is using for the RHR value on the watch face. Anybody know how they get this number? It doesn’t seem like it fits the common definition of RHR.

    Reply
    • In an e-mail with them on the topic late last week, they allude to it (on some devices) being the lowest one-minute average. But, then they explain how it’s a bit of a mess because the metrics don’t align up (Garmin Connect Mobile, the device’s HR sensor display, or the HR widget screen). Apparently it’s on the list to address…still.

      Reply
    • Robert

      Wow, thanks for the quick response, even to an old post! And for your fantastic reviews! I just saw that you also recognized this issue in your in-depth review of the vivoactive HR:

      link to dcrainmaker.com

      “What’s not fine is the above (click to zoom). In this case, as I type this paragraph it shows me at a HR of 53bpm. And the lowest HR value it shows for the four hour time block is 49bpm. Yet as you see above – somehow my RHR value is 55bpm. Huh?”

      Reply
    • JM

      In recent firmware updates (e.g. v3.0 on the Fenix 3 HR) Garmin changed their formula for estimating RHR, and instead of just picking the lowest observation over a given timeframe they now seem to do more complex calculations – I assume they are catching up with Fitbit on that. My RHR is now shown as being 10-15 beats higher than it was in the past, but I can adjust to that. For bragging rights I’ll just keep using my wake-up pulse (at least as long as everybody else is…)

      Reply
  75. Sanjay Balla

    Great article!
    Question – I like the look of the UP3 and like the UP app (have had an UP24 for a while), but the whole passive heart rate thing bothers me. What do I lose by going that path?

    Reply
    • Greg Hilton

      Up3 gives you resting and passive HR. Accuracy of rhr is questionable for me, it seems to read high.

      Reply
  76. municheast

    What are some ways to improve the optical HR measurement?
    – at which position should I wear the watch at my forearm?
    – how tight should I wear it?
    – does it help to shave my forearm?

    In my case I wear the 735XT.

    Reply
    • – About 1-3cm from your wrist bone
      – Snug enough that it doesn’t slip, nor could you slide a pencil under it easily
      – Not really

      Reply
  77. municheast

    Can the optical HR sensor (from Garmin) improve the accuracy by learning from the chest strap data?

    Reply
  78. Ignacio

    Hi, I need a continuous optical HR monitor, and i need to export data to excel or CSV. Since Basis is discontinued, which one should i try? Thanks in advance.

    Reply
    • gw

      I have the same question: what woud be a good replacement of the basis peak, to get detailed (each minute) HR etc in csv-format?

      Reply
  79. Frank

    Ray,

    Great article and perfect for me as I am seeking a replacement for my Basis B1 – THe basis peak is on hold – the main thing I am seeking is the watch that BEST calculates RHR on a daily/nightly basis. I was leaning toward the Vivoactive HR but now based on your info above maybe a fitbit?

    What is your FAVORITE for calculating (and tracking) RHR???!!

    THanks!
    FF

    Reply
    • Albert W

      I’ve been searching for such a device that will monitor RHR 24/7 and work well with iOS. After going through multiple devices, including the Apple watch and Garmin 225, I would say Fitbit is the best for this. This would be either the HR, Surge or Blaze.

      Reply
    • Rod B

      You may want to consider tracking RHR with a reading taken with just your phone after waking in the morning but before getting up each day. There are some free phone apps that will do a good job of measuring resting heart rate. We also developed a free app at SensorBLE that measures resting heart rate, automatically logs the lowest reading of the day, and displays the trends in an unique and informative way. You can find the Resting Heart Rate app for Android phones at link to play.google.com and for the iPhone at link to appsto.re

      Reply
  80. Emmanuel Millan

    Excellent article Ray!

    Only one thing, could be easier to find it, if you tag the post in How-To Guides » Sports Technology.

    Reply
  81. Andrea

    Where did you read about the upcoming 24/7 heart rate monitor for the Polar A360?

    Reply