Wearables and Apps-How to Track Your Body
Using wearables and apps on your phone can be helpful to monitor the body’s response to stress or training throughout the day. Although blood and salivary tests are available and genuinely more accurate in measuring stress responses through cortisol levels, these are not practical on a daily basis.
A basic way to measure response to stress or training is to record self-perceived measures of mood sleep quality, stress and energy levels. The app iMood Journal (https://itunes.apple.com/us/app/imoodjournal/id517952128?mt=8) can be useful for this but in my opinion can be impractical at times.
In addition to mood, sleep quality is another important measure and the app Sleep Cycle is useful for this (https://itunes.apple.com/au/app/sleep-cycle-alarm-clock/id320606217?mt=8).
Dr Lucy’s favourite wearable is the Fitbit Charge 3 which gives insight into daily activity, tracks heart rate and gives feedback on sleep quality all in one (https://www.fitbit.com/uk/charge3).
Monitoring Heart Rate-
In addition to these parameters, we also know that heart rate variability, the beat to beat variation in heart-beat, can provide a direct indication of the body’s stress levels and activation of parasympathetic (rest and recovery) and sympathetic (flight and flight) nervous systems. Generally, the wider the variation in HRV the better and narrower HRV can be due to stress or under recovery. There are several ways to monitor this in which the optimum is on a continuous basis. A few of products that do this and give feedback on stress levels and sleep quality include:
Oura ring (this is probably the best): The Ōura ring senses body temperature pulse heartrate variability and activity. It can give insights into sleep quality and recovery. Remarkably, that this data is gathered with a reasonably stylish rain. https://ouraring.com/.
Whoop wristband: The Whoop wristband also get great feedback on resting heart rate body temperature pulse heartrate variability and activity. The manufacturers have also created an online community and podcast to help users optimize the experience. http://whoop.com/
Garmin vivosmart: the Garmin watch allows users to facilitate the GPS tracking that Garmin devices are famous for as well as giving estimates of VO2 max https://buy.garmin.com/en-GB/GB/p/571520
The idea of these devices is that they give you the requisite nudge to ensure that you take proactive measures to reduce stress and increase recovery on days when your heart rate variability is low and the feedback from the device suggests that stress levels are high.
Dr Hugh Coyne