Saturday, March 18, 2023

Thank you, Fitbit

I have a Fitbit Versa 1; I've had it for about a year and a half now. Our son, Ryan, bought a Versa 2 and handed the Versa 1 down to me.

Because it's an older model, it lacks some of the newer bells and whistles, but I don't miss most of those things. What I did miss was Saturation Percentage of Oxygen (SPO2), Heart Rate Variance (HRV), and Resting Breathing Rate (RBR). But I love the sleep tracking and heartrate monitoring.

The sleep tracking confirmed to me what I had thought for years: I sleep more deeply than average and have fewer dreams. Below is a screen shot from my sleep profile from about six weeks ago, but it's typical. The shaded range is average for men my age. You can see that I'm well below average for REM and well above average for deep sleep:

Now, what I said about SPO2 isn't quite true. Probably about nine months ago now Fitbit made SPO2 tracking available on the Versa 2 and above. With the Versa 1, you could add the SPO2 watch face and see your SPO2 from the night before, and in the sleep profile, if you scrolled all the way down, you could see the variation for that night. But, you couldn't track it day-to-day to watch for trends.

But, man, does SPO2 tracking drain the battery! After activating it, I was getting about 48 hours per charge. But recently, that has become 36 hours. So, I decided to start looking at replacements—not that I was planning on taking the plunge soon, but I wanted to see what was available. I was really attracted to the Garmin stuff because nothing was behind a paywall—no subscription required. But, their basic models weren't touch screen and didn't include an altimeter for hill tracking. But I certainly wasn't happy that in order to access some of the more advanced stuff on Fitbit you had to subscribe. I didn't want the information that badly!

But all that changed about four days ago. Fitbit made SPO2, HRV, RBR, and skin temp variation available outside the paywall! And, what truly surprised me is that the Versa 1 can track HRV and RBR!

To activate it, go to your Fitbit app and click on Health Metrics; it will ask to you approve the tracking and then show you the metrics. See the screen shot below:

Because I have a Versa 1, the HRV, RBR, and skin temp spots were empty, which didn't surprise me because I knew it wasn't being tracked. But, the next day, I was very surprised to see the HRV and RBR there! (See the screen shot below.)

So, thank you Fitbit! The next smartwatch/fitness tracker I get will be a Fitbit. It has the best bang for the buck and fits my needs very well—especially now that more data is available without a subscription.

By the way, I'm not sure how Fitbit calculates the RHR, but using the more traditional way of looking at your heart rate when you first get up, my RHR whould be about 47 bpm, not 53. In the summer, Fitbit tells me it is about 50, whereas I see it as 45 bpm—but I'm not going to quibble; it's still in the excellent range!

And a further note about HRV: The higher the number, the better. Do a quick google search to find out more, but it varies by age. And as far as RBR, unless you are in excellent shape, my RBR would be a warning about sleep apnea. But, for a person in good physical condition (i.e., an athlete), anything in the 8–10 breathes/minute is normal. Again, do a quick google search for more info.

An added little tidbit that many people don't know: On the Fitbit, swipe up to see your stats for the day. Scroll down to the heart rate and swipe left twice. It will show you your cardio-fitness score. It will give a range and tell you where you fall in your age bracket. I'm in the 56–60 range, which for a 67-year old is considered excellent.

Now, if only I could find out how to calculate my functional threshold power (FTP) on my Cycleops mag trainer (it's a dumb trainer). It's about seven or eight years old now; it was given to me by our son-in-law and replaced a fifteen-year-old Cycleops mag trainer. I don't have wireless speed/cadence detectors on this bike, either, so it's all guesstimation. I always keep the resistance set to maximum, too. I've looked everywhere on the internet for help calculating it, and the closest I can come is a graph that shows average speed mapped to approximate FTP. Based on that, I'd guesstimate it at about 200 watts. Is that good? Apparently it's pretty fair, earning a Cat 4 rating.

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