Heart Rate Variability in Common Wearables, What Are Your Choices? Oura, Apple, Garmin, Whoop?
Updated: Apr 1, 2021
Are you thinking of investing in your health over this festive season?
There are lots of incentives to do so even if you set the coronavirus apart! Here's a quick look at the different types of Heart Rate Variability (HRV) wearables you might want to consider before parting with your money.
Your choices are a ring, a wristband, a chest strap, or a chest wearable if you really want to get fancy. What is the difference and why should it matter? It matters if you want to get as accurate data as possible for a reasonable investment without going all the way to medical-grade devices.
What are the differences that make the difference?
HRV wearables aim to give you the same information i.e. the condition of your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous system. Where they capture the data from (the site), how they capture it (the technology), and how they process the data captured (the process) matter when it comes to providing actionable data for the purposes of improving your health.
As with much in our technology-driven age, the quality of data trumps all else. The richer the data source the better. You want a wearable that captures data at an optimal site. Once you get the site right your measuring tool has to be sensitive enough to capture as much of the data as possible to allow the processing step to work efficiently. Processing is about effectively using the data which is down to algorithms and magical formulae I know nothing about! Rest assured if the first 2 steps, the site, and the technology are in place you probably scored a home run.
For the reasons above I would choose a ring that captures data at the base of your finger over a wrist wearable (and yes that means over an Apple watch or Whoop device. I'd choose a chest wearable over a chest strap because chest straps tend to be multi-purpose devices as are Apple watches and Garmins, and while some of these have great processing engines behind them they haven't yet beat the consistency of single purposed devices.
So for my money, it is:
2) Chest Wearable
3) Chest strap
4) Wrist Wearable
When all is said and done having something to objectively measure HRV even if not 100% accurate gives you a starting point and something to focus on. If this tool can help without it making you obsessive about sleep tracking embrace it. Here's to your good health in 2021 and beyond.