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Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has gained a lot of interest in recent years as a way to measure stress, training performance, and overall physical and mental health. Serious smartwatch and fitness tracker manufacturers would not consider releasing a new model that does not integrate the HRV in one form or another. Through its integration of FirstBeat Analytics, Garmin pushed the boundaries of stress analysis to deliver more precise analyses of how stress impacts our energy levels.
With the newly released Forerunner 255, 955, and Fenix 6 Series, Garmin went the extra mile and introduced the Garmin HRV Status. But how and when is it computed? How can you access it? What does it mean, and how do you make the most of this new indicator to improve your training, health, and lifestyle? In this article, we will tell you everything we know about the Garmin HRV Status and how to benefit from it.
But, before diving into the wonders of heart rate variability, let’s first give you a brief reminder of what HRV is and why it matters.
Heart Rate Variability Reminder
Do not be fooled by a sixty-beats-per-minute heart rhythm. It does not mean that each beat will occur every second. The heart is not a metronome, and all interbeat time differences are at the core of the HRV measurement. Without entering into the physiological mechanisms, let’s remember that the HRV is a way to check how much pressure is put on our autonomic nervous system.
Check this article to go deeper into the underlying biologic basis. In a nutshell, the lower the HRV, the more stress is put on your body and mind, and the higher your HRV, the better you will be. Measuring HRV is a continuous process, and to get meaningful results, the overall trend must be examined. How well you perform is influenced by various factors, including your workouts, how much sleep you get, what you eat, and how stressed out you are.
Which Garmin measure HRV?
Most of the newer Garmin watches do include a way to get and use HRV values in one form or another. For example, the Forerunner 255 and 955, Fenix 6 Series, Venue 2 Series, and even the Garmin Vivosmart 5 fitness tracker will all rely on their high-quality optical heart rate sensor to extract HRV out of the heart rhythm.
Garmin mid and high-end range smartwatches will not only use HRV to get an indication of your stress levels, but they will make the most of the heart rate variability evolution over time to help define VO2 Max, Performance Condition, and Lactate Threshold.
The Health Status Snapshot is another feature that will provide an instant. It just takes a 2-minute analysis of your cardiovascular health, including your HRV.
What can you learn from the Health Snapshot?
Until recently, a Garmin chest strap was needed to get instant HRV results. However, if none of the Garmin devices still allow access to raw HRV data, the Health Snapshot is an easy way to determine how your body feels.
Press the start button on your watch, and follow the onscreen instructions. You will be asked to rest and hold still for 2 minutes, during which blood oxygen saturation, stress, heart rate, respiration, and HRV data will be collected.
This comprehensive report is available on the Fenix 7 series, Forerunner 255 series, Forerunner 945 LTE, Forerunner 955/955 Solar, Tactix 7 series, and Venu 2 and 2 Plus.
After just 2 minutes, you will obtain two values for the HRV based on two different calculation methods: the RMSSD, which is classically used to assess recovery and training performance, and the SDRR, which is a broader metric to get insight into overall cardiac health.
Contrary to the Garmin HRV Status that will compute a score and use it based on the overall HRV trends, the Health Snapshot will provide raw data and an instant glimpse of your core health metrics and stress level. The results are directly available on the watch or the Garmin Connect companion app.
What can you learn from the Garmin HRV Status?
If, as we mentioned, the Health Snapshot is all about instant results, the Garmin HRV Status will focus on long-term trends.
HRV Status is a new feature that appeared on the new Forerunner watches, 255 and 955, but is now also available on the Fenix 6 through a simple update.
Relying on the same principles as Fitbit, Garmin will collect heart rate data at night while you sleep. It will take three weeks to get a baseline and finally reap the benefits of getting the results as part of your morning report.
Once the system is calibrated, the HRV results of the previous seven nights’ average will be classified into three categories: Low, unbalanced, or balanced.
Accessible directly on the Garmin watch, as part of the morning report, on the Connect App, or on the Garmin Connect website, the HRV status provides a glimpse into how your body and mind are evolving.
Your heart rate variability can be affected by various factors, including training intensity, physical activity, sleep, nutrition, and good habits. In addition, the HRV readings can vary from person to person depending on factors such as age, gender, and fitness level.
A balanced HRV may indicate favorable markers of health, such as a healthy balance between training and rest, increased cardiovascular fitness, and the ability to remain resilient in the face of stress. A status that is either unbalanced or poor may indicate exhaustion, increased recuperation requirements, or increased stress.
The Garmin HRV status will not be affected by a night out but will reflect prolonged over-training or exhaustion. Such long-term analyses are especially valuable when developing a healthy exercise routine.
It does not substitute for the body battery, though, so that will rely on short-term HRV stress analyses.
More than a sports watch, the Forerunner 255 or 955 make the most of the Garmin HRV status to get a holistic approach to health and training.
By combining long-term and short-term HRV data, Garmin is on a path to changing how we deal with our health daily.
If it was not enough, the HRV for the last four weeks is available for free. When other watchmakers, such as Fitbit, will request a monthly subscription to Premium to access term data, Garmin’s philosophy is to charge a bit more for the hardware upfront but to provide the analyses for free.
How accurate is Garmin HRV data?
Chest strap heart rate monitors are still the gold standard when it comes to heart rhythm for a reason. Instead of detecting the blood flowing through the wrist using optical sensors, they detect the electrical signals produced by the heart. Therefore, the heart rate variability will only be as good as the heart rate detection accuracy.
When running or exercising, Garmin sensors can find it challenging to detect heartbeats. So, even though scientists showed that the accuracy of the Garmin Forerunner was good when walking, we can reasonably assume that the accuracy of the HRV status will be even better. Why so? Because the heart rate variability status will be based on the resting heart rate values detected while you sleep and do not move as much as when you exercise.
The rest of the analysis is just based on the expertise of Garmin and FirstBeat Analytics to process the results using clever and meaningful algorithms.
To wrap up
Garmin watches make the most of the heart rate variability to analyze acute stress or more holistic body and mental status. With the new HRV status, the Forerunner, Fenix, and Venu watch get one more step closer to becoming the life and sports coach we have all been looking for.
The long-term analysis of the HRV is a way to train and live better, and the only device needed is a smartwatch. I am impressed!