Recently, I embarked on a new fitness journey, determined to track my progress using data and analytics. As a novice in long-distance running, I'm currently focusing on shorter distances, while also engaging in CrossFit, Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and strength training at the gym with weights. So, I will share my insights based on my experiences with these various sports activities, exploring the efficacy of sleep analysis, body recovery, and other health-related aspects.
Future Wearables: Advanced Health Monitoring and BeyondI think in the coming years, wearables are poised to undergo significant advancements, transforming into essential health-monitoring devices for a wide range of metrics. For instance, Apple has already announced that their next-generation Apple Watch will feature a non-invasive blood glucose monitor, eliminating the need for needles.
At present, there are various categories of wearables, with no single device excelling in all aspects. In this article, I will discuss the strengths and weaknesses of each device based on my research and experiences, providing a comprehensive analysis of the current state of wearables technology.
My Top Wearable listI will focus on the Oura Ring, Whoop, Garmin devices, and the Apple Watch and I'll add some comments for H10 Polar. While Fitbit has garnered positive reviews, its acquisition by Google and lack of support for Google Fit raises concerns.
Furthermore, it appears to lack unique features and advanced sensors, positioning it as a more affordable, yet basic, fitness tracker with a polished presentation. Most of the other smartwatches, except apple, belongs on this category so it will be pretty much close to my Apple Watch opinion.
Features that I'm particularly interested inIn my view, the perfect wearable would encompass features such as a precise heart rate monitor, SpO2 measurement capabilities, body recovery tracking, sleep analysis, a daily heart rate variability monitor akin to a Holter monitor, and an all-inclusive fitness activity tracker. While it's important to note that none of these wearables offer clinical-grade accuracy, they still serve as valuable starting points for personal health monitoring and improvement.
Oura RingLet's begin with the Oura Ring, a wearable device that excels in sleep tracking above all else, thanks to its advanced sensors and comprehensive data analysis. However, its fitness capabilities are limited, particularly when it comes to activities such as weight training, CrossFit, and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu or any other martial arts. Good luck wearing a ring and doing these. Additionally, the device may struggle to accurately track heart rate data when users reach zone 5 intensity levels. But for basic overall health check is great as it has many of the features mentioned above.
Apple WatchThe Apple Watch strikes a unique balance between being a smartwatch and a fitness or health tracking device, offering a wide range of advanced sensors and functionalities. However, there are two significant drawbacks:
First, as it is primarily a smartwatch, users must search for, install, and navigate through various fitness applications to access all the desired features. The basic pre-installed fitness capabilities are less comprehensive compared to other wearables, and navigating the menus can be more complex. Additionally, many of these apps come with costly subscription fees, so be prepared to spend upwards of $200 per year for the full suite of features.
Secondly, the battery life of the Apple Watch is less than ideal, requiring daily charging, which can be inconvenient for users seeking consistent health and fitness tracking.
WhoopWhoop boasts two key benefits. Firstly, it offers superior recovery tracking following workouts, providing valuable insights into post-exercise recuperation. The process of recovery tracking is based on several factors, not just the data from the previous workout. This approach allows for the tracking of multiple metrics, and the Whoop wearable device excels in this area. While some Garmin watches also offer this feature, Whoop stands out for its superior performance in that field. Secondly, it is a truly versatile wearable, with various attachment options such as sleeves or even underwear. Although the effectiveness of heart rate and fitness tracking in these unconventional positions remains uncertain, it is the only wearable that can be used in certain sports like CrossFit or Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Traditional wearables like rings or wristbands are impractical and potentially fragile during activities involving high-impact movements, such as kettlebell snatches or clean and jerks. Whoop's adaptability makes it a more suitable option for these demanding workouts. The main disadvantages are that it is missing some key features like step counter (ok I don't totally disagree with their explanation, still it is a good motivated measure to make you move). It also has a subscription model which is fine, but from what I've read it is inferior as a fitness tracker compared to apple watch or other fitness trackers.
Garmin DevicesWhile their devices may have been less impressive 2-3 years ago, with less effective algorithms and sensors, the situation has changed dramatically. Today, investing in a Garmin wristband at a price comparable to an Apple Watch will provide you with a top-notch, comprehensive fitness and health tracking device. While Garmin offers devices tailored to specific sports, it's worth noting that fitness trackers generally excel most in tracking running activities. Garmin devices are a good overall device if you want a bit of all the worlds.
H10 Polar Strap BandLet's be candid: no matter how advanced a wristband-based tracker is, it cannot rival the accuracy of a chest strap that is in close contact with the heart. I have compared the results of the Polar H10 chest strap with both an Apple Watch and a high-end Garmin device. While the readings were relatively similar in heart rate zones 1 to 3, significant discrepancies emerged in zones 4 and 5. If your primary goal is to engage in rigorous training to improve your VO2 max, and you require a highly accurate heart rate monitor, the Polar H10 is your best bet. The good news is that it easily pairs with other devices, allowing you to instantly access and analyze Polar's results.
Choosing the Right Wearable: Finding the Best Fit for Your NeedsUltimately, your choice of wearable depends on your specific needs. If you're looking for the best in each category, you might consider the Oura Ring for sleep tracking, the Whoop sleeve for optimal recovery and versatility across activities, the Apple Watch for its smartwatch capabilities and health features, a Garmin device for all-around fitness tracking, the Polar H10 chest strap for precise heart rate monitoring, and Under Armour HOVR shoes for top-notch step tracking and running coaching.
Of course, this combination may seem excessive, and I'm only half-serious. While some people do indeed use multiple devices, most of us eagerly anticipate future advancements in wearable technology that will offer a single, comprehensive solution. In the meantime, I've opted for the Garmin Venu 2 Plus as my wearable of choice.
My Current Wearable Selection: Garmin Venu 2 Plus with H10 polar strap bandI have opted for a specific wearable combination that prioritizes heart rate monitoring, which I consider the most important feature for understanding my exercise performance and daily wellbeing. Paired with a Garmin device, the heart rate monitor provides a wealth of insights, including highly accurate VO2 max calculations (within 95% accuracy compared to lab results), calorie tracking, hydration monitoring, intermittent fasting timers, body battery readings, stress levels, respiration metrics, sleep tracking, weekly exercise intensity, SpO2 measurements, and more.
While this combination leans more towards health and fitness tracking than smartwatch functionality, it aligns with my personal preferences. So, with these trackers you can start having some basic data for yourself, extract them and start your journey as a biohacker. What wearable combination works best for you?