Never in my life was I expecting a Garmin Activity Tracker to show this kind of information, but it did. My wife recently came down with the Influenza virus and her Garmin Fitness Tracker was providing the live data to back up exactly how she was feeling.
If you are like me and the millions of other people, you probably wear a smartwatch or fitness tracker, most likely a Fitbit or an Apple Watch. Over the years, I have tested quite a bit of Smartwatches / Activity trackers from brands like Polar, Jawbone, Fitbit, Garmin, Timex and more. I guess you can say there's a perk working for a company that sells fitness gadgets. I get to test the newest models in order to know how they work so I can help customers choose a model that meets their needs.
Recently my wife started using a Garmin Fenix 5, a high end Running / Outdoor Smartwatch that has way more features than she could ever use. She is a recreational runner, far removed from running a marathon or even a 1/2 marathon at this point. She runs simply for pleasure and to live a healthy lifestyle. I'm sure she could write a really awesome review on the look, style, and function of this watch from the fitness perspective because she absolutely loves it, but unless you are an outdoor trail runner, hiker, the Fenix 5 is most likely overkill for 97% of you. However, this article is not about reviewing this high end running watch, it is a cool feature by Firstbeat that can be found select Garmin models like the Fenix 5.
On Jan 25th, 2018, my wife started her day as any other routine work day. That morning she did notice her Garmin Fenix 5 needed charging, so she plugged it in and left for work (showing lack of data on the graph below). Midday through the workday she started to feel fatigued, I remember that day because she called me and told me she was feeling under the weather and to be prepared for sickness to hit the household. When she arrived home from work that evening she grabbed her Garmin from the charger, not because she was going out for a run, but to use the sleep tracking feature. As the evening progressed her symptoms got worse, aching back and leg pain, fever, and cough. I immediately thought she had the Flu and this was gonna hit everyone in the household. If you know my wife, she is not a person to take medications, she feels masking her symptoms is not healing and pushing through the pain is a form of healing properly. After a rough night, the next morning she decided to take the day off and stay in bed. As boredom set in, she started to look at her Garmin Connect App on her iPhone and noticed this new Stress Details feature she had not noticed in the past. The data Garmin was providing about her current state of well-being fascinated her.
Looking at the above chart, you can see her body was under tremendous stress for 5 hours, while resting in bed (In her case the Flu was stressing her body). Using this data she is fixated on watching her Stress Factor in live time during the whole illness and constantly giving me updates on her condition. As we move on to the next graph (day 2 starting at midnight) you can see she is no better in her healing process, and her body is still under tremendous high stress. I recall she barely slept that night, her muscle aches were so bad she caved in and asked for Advil to help ease the pain.
With the help of the (2) Advil, she was able to finally get some sleep. As you can see in Day 3 graph (below), her stress level during sleep was pretty low, and she awoke feeling refreshed enough to get out of bed. That morning she decided to take a short walk with me. Perhaps the (2) Advil gave her a false sense of feeling good because as the day progressed she started to crash again from overdoing i
As we head into day 4, she is mostly medium versus high stress. She was fatigued and feeling bad, but not nearly as bad as day 2. I knew she was recovering (still in bed) as her aches were not as bad, however her cough was still persistent. She decided once again that (2) Advil were going to get her to sleep that night. As you can see from Day 4 graph, at once again after (2) Advil her stress levels started to decline.
Finally, on day 5, she was feeling well enough to head back to work, as you can see from her graph. Unfortunately, that was the last screenshot she took of this virus, but her levels are pretty low with the exception of normal stress that incurs during the workday. While writing this blog, she still had a lingering cough, some fatigue, but feeling pretty good otherwise.
So what exactly did we uncover here and how can it help me in normal day to day? I'm not exactly sure how to answer that just yet, but I am very intrigued by this technology and will be personally monitoring my stress on a daily basis to see what triggers fluctuations in it.
In Fitness Training, there is a saying "Listen to your Body". In a non-fitness lifestyle, we say "don't stress over it" or "You're going to give yourself a heart attack", but how often do we listen to that advice and slow down & relax? While I cannot guarantee this product for any medical monitoring or it can prevent, it is quite fascinating that it showed me what my wife was feeling during her influenza illness, and this has me intrigued for what I may uncover in my own stress monitoring.
Here is a list of Garmin models that have the Firstbeat Stress and Recovery Technology: Garmin Vivosport, Garmin Vivoactive 3, Garmin Vivosmart 3, Garmin Forerunner 645, Garmin Fenix 5, Garmin Forerunner 935
About the technology:
FirstBeat Technology All Day Stress and Recovery (Revealing how your body responds to the challenges of life and environment). To further explain this technology we need to understand what it means.
All-day stress monitoring reveals the presence and intensity of stress and recovery reactions as the exist in your body as physiological phenomena. This means that you can quickly see how much of your day is spent experiencing stress and how successful your body was in offsetting those stressful moments with adequate recovery. Stress is an important and unavoidable part of life, so the goal is not to eliminate it but to establish the healthy balance between stress and rest that is essential to personal well-being.
- Discover how your body responds to life’s challenges
- Identify key moments of stress and rest throughout the day
- Guide health and lifestyle decisions based on scientific insight
- Work towards balance for enhanced personal well-being
How does it work?
Firstbeat’s all-day stress monitoring analysis is based on an understanding of heart rate variability (HRV), small changes in the interval between consecutive heart beats. Because your heart rate fast-regulated by your autonomic nervous system, analyzing beat-to-beat changes in your heart rate function opens a window through which your body’s internal workings can be examined. When the sympathetic (fight or flight) portion of your autonomic nervous system is dominant, variation in beat-to-beat changes is reduced; and when the parasympathetic (rest and digest) portion of your autonomic nervous system is dominant, variation in beat-to-beat changes increases.
Recognizing which of these systems is dominant and the degree to which it is dominating unlocks the ability to see and understand the very personal way in which your body is experiencing and responding to the many challenges of life and environment.