Understanding what your fitness tracking is telling you is crucial to reaching your goals. Most fitness trackers on the market are compiling your biometric data including your heart rate, blood oxygen levels and metabolic flexibility. But what does that really mean? We’ve broken down the key metrics below.
Resting Heart Rate
- Definition: Resting heart rate is the beats per minute while your body is at rest, ideally not having performed physical exercise within the last 1-2 hours.
- Fun Fact: Caffeine may also elevate resting heart rate, so be mindful of when your last sip of java was.
- A lower resting heart rate can mean a higher degree of physical fitness, which is often associated with reduced rates of cardiac events like heart attacks.
Heart Rate Variability
- Definition: Heart rate variability is the measure of difference between heart beats. This is regulated by the nervous system and controls when your body goes from sympathetic (think fight or flight mode) and parasympathetic (relaxation) systems.
- Why does it matter? Higher levels of HR-V is commonly viewed as an indicator of a healthy heart.
- Fun Fact: Internal stress factors like poor nutrition, alcohol use and illness cause variation in daily HR-V levels.
Heart Rate Zones
- Definition: HR Zones monitor how hard your body is working during fitness activities. These zones indicate which “fuel” your body is burning and can be useful when targeting fat burning exercise or athletic performance.
- Zones 1-2 are ideal for using fat as an energy source during fitness activities and helps sustain long periods of exercise. It’s measured at 50-70% of your maximum heart rate.
- Zones 3-4 are ideal for using carbohydrates as an energy source during fitness activities. It’s great for enhancing aerobic power and increasing anaerobic tolerance. It’s measured at 70-90% of your max heart rate.
- Fun Fact: Most people train in HR zones outside their desired goal. Each zone yields a different metabolic process. So if you want to benefit from that zone (like fat burning), you have to log your minutes in that zone.
Heart Rate Recovery
- Definition: Heart-rate recovery is a measurement of how much the heart rate falls after completing an exercise, measured as the decrease in beats per minute.
- Why does it matter? The faster your heart rate returns to normal, the healthier you are! This measures the change in decreased heart rate one minute after exercise has been completed. Ideally, this should reflect the pinnacle of your workout, after you’ve rested for 60 seconds. These rates are not taken in a clinical setting, so they are not perfect. However, they still provide great insight into heart health.
- Not to get existential on you but heart-rate recovery is a predictor of mortality. We aren’t your crystal ball of health but being mindful of these numbers may inform your overall levels of health.
- Definition: Vo2 Max measures the maximum amount of oxygen utilized during intense physical activity.
- Why It Matters: This value can be used to establish a baseline fitness level before starting a training or exercise program.
- You can improve your Vo2 max score by exercising at a high intensity. Incorporate HIIT and continuous endurance training into your routine, and continue to challenge yourself by increasing your training duration and frequency.
Weight Loss Vs. Athletic Performance
We’ve tapped Point’s Exercise Scientist and Personal Trainer, Kyle Kurata (CSCS) to dive into the differences between weight loss and athletic performance. While there is some overlap in terms of metrics, there are some key differences!
- Metabolic Flexibility
“In regards to weight or fat loss, we have to talk about metabolic flexibility. What metabolic flexibility means is that our body is comfortable using both fat and glucose for energy. In simple terms, fat needs oxygen to be broken down for energy while glucose does not. For example if we are working out at an intensity at or above a 85% MHR (maximum heart rate) we will most likely be burning 100% glucose. As the intensity goes down that ratio of glucose to fat [burn] will also drop. Now why is this important for weight loss? The better cardiovascular shape I am in will allow me to burn a higher ratio of fat for energy at higher exercise intensities than, say, a deconditioned person. Now I am not saying to avoid high intensity for weight loss. We just need to know how the body uses its own fuel throughout the day so we can maximize the time spent burning fat.”
The same logic around burning fat vs glucose can be applied to athletic performance. “For example, let’s say I’m a marathon runner. If I know that I’m only burning glucose at 85% MHR, that means I only have a limited supply of glucose in my body for the event. However, if I’m able to stay under [85% MHR] and use some fat for energy as well, I won’t run out of glucose as quickly.”
- Heart Rate Recovery & Athletic Performance
Kyle also speaks to athletic performance that isn’t solely based on endurance. “If we’re looking at a sport like basketball, then I will have entirely different metrics I want to keep track of. For this example, it’s now a good idea to push into these high HR (heart rate) zones [since] I want to see how fast my recovery HR is. Because a sport like basketball requires short intense bouts of energy, my ability to slow my HR down after will be extremely beneficial.”
- Heart Rate Variability & Athletic Performance
Heart rate variability (HRV) is also a key metric to monitor for athletic performance according to Kyle. “If I know when my HRV is at its best, I know how to time and optimize my hard workouts for the week. For example, if my HRV is usually high for Monday mornings, I know this is the day I plan my hardest workout because my body is at peak performance level to do so.”
INTERPRETING THE MESSAGES
Understanding our body’s coded communication is fundamental to reaching our goals. However, if you don’t know how to interpret the messages, you may end up frustrated—spending time and money on the wrong fitness programs. And while fitness trackers have helped increase access to personalized biometric data, metrics without meaning are pointless. It’s often an incomprehensible diagnosis without a treatment plan. And even though most wearables will tell you differently, more data doesn’t mean better insights…
Point is here to change that. Our tech is novel, but our goal isn’t: combine biometric data with the best in behavioral science, psychology, design and technology to help your fitness and health data be more understandable and actionable (personalized insights and fitness recommendations based on your goals). We’re the fitness tool that works as hard as you do.