Generally the HR in the real world of exercise is crappy

Discussion in 'Apple Watch' started by BrianNH, May 8, 2015.

  1. BrianNH macrumors member

    Apr 20, 2015
    I hate to say this because it's a primary reason I really liked the (idea of) the watch. I've had a HR strap for about 5 months and have really become a fan of having that information readily available while working out. I hate having to take all the extra time to put it on, get it connected yada yada.

    The watch, when it's locked in, generally seems aligned with what I expect based on learning my HR ranges from the strap. But there in lies the problem, the lockin is pretty crappy most of the time. I'll elaborate:

    I have the ML while I wait for an additional sport band. I've figured out through trial and error where the best spot on my arm for readings is and that's a few inches towards the elbow from where I normally wear it. I also make it tight enough (and the ML holds) so I'm not sure the sport band will help here. I think making it too tight actually interferes with the reading as well.

    The lock on takes too long is the first problem. If you are timing your workouts, then you want to start as soon as you hit go on the activity, which is when it starts trying to lock in. Quick changes in HR seems to confuse the watch, delaying the lock for 1-2 minutes in my experience. So since you start working out at the time it's trying to lock, you're pretty screwed to start.

    When I'm running, things seem to stabilize and it's locking in maybe 70% of the time. I think this is because my HR is pretty stable at that point.

    Elliptical though it seems to lock in maybe 15% of the time. I think the wide range of motion with the arms is interfering. I also wish I could see the HR on my phone in real time since I have a place on the machine where I can see the number all the time when using my strap. It's awkward to twist your wrist while holding the handle.

    Bicycling I have maybe 25% of the time locked in. I think this is some combination of vibrations and rapid HR changes as I climb and descend hills.

    I'm hoping this gets better with software and I know I can use my strap in conjunction but that doesn't change the fact that the activity HR is crappy in the real world for at least some types of workouts.

    I still intend to keep the watch for other reasons. ymmv.
  2. modernaccord macrumors 6502a

    Apr 20, 2015
    Seattle, WA region
    I noticed this too. I was once doing some simple cardio and it registered my HR at 289bpm...I wasn't dead or dying so obviously that was wrong. About 1 min later it dropped to a more reasonable 140bpm, locked in for about 3 min, and then simply lost the lock and all HR data.

    At this point, it's more of an activity motivator for me than a true activity tracker. I do like having the rings filled in because I'm OCD like that...
  3. yuyueyuyue macrumors newbie

    May 6, 2015
    the green leds need to touch your skin at all times, if the watch band is a bit loose, it will not be slightly inaccurate, it will be completely confused.
  4. Tsuchiya macrumors 68020


    Jun 7, 2008
    Mine pissed me off today.

    I started working out this evening and it wasn't reading my heart rate at all, only discovered this towards the end when I was swiping through the screens before cooling down.

    I had to reset the Watch before it started reading again, the LEDs just refused to turn on until I did.

    Probably a one off bug, but it isn't reliable.
  5. BrianNH thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 20, 2015
    I know that, trust me this isn't the problem in my case.


    I have looked occasionally to be sure the lights are on, they always have been. I feel like pausing and restarting sometimes helps with the lock. Again just generally crappy.
  6. fanta88 macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2015
    I have to agree with everyone. HR measurements are inaccurate at best. If it was an unnecessary feature, that wouldn't be such a problem. Unfortunately, an inaccurate HR reading will lead to inaccurate calories burned. This makes the entire fitness/activity features unreliable.

    And yes, I also agree that readings while on the elliptical are the worst. Just this morning I was on the elliptical and my HR was at 151bpm, which was fairly accurate at the time, then quickly dropped to 62 (LOL) within a minute.
  7. Exile714 macrumors 6502a

    Jan 14, 2015
    My HR tracks well with my chest strap for about 20 minutes before becoming unstable. I know this is going to sound weird, but it gets worse if my sweat is saltier, but not necessarily if I'm wetter. On my bike, I'm generally quite dry until I stop but the salt remains. At the gym, I just get sweaty. Some days my sweat is saltier than others, and the HR gets worse on those days. Washing out the salt under the watch seems to help too, despite making it wetter underneath.

    I'm also very, very light skinned. Don't know if that makes a difference, but I think it helps with HR tracking.
  8. wlow3 macrumors regular

    Sep 9, 2008
    And yet, other people are having better experiences ...

    "If you were wondering whether the sophisticated heart-rate monitor in the Apple Watch does actually generate more accurate results, the answer appears to be a pretty resounding ‘yes.’ Software engineer and SonoPlot founder Brad Larson extracted the raw data from his Apple Watch and compared it to that generated by a dedicated heart-rate monitor. The results can be seen above.

    "The comparison device, a Mio Alpha, has itself been shown to have 99% accuracy when compared to the gold standard of chest strap monitors.

    "A teardown of the Apple Watch revealed that it contains a pulse oximeter, suggesting that future updates or models may be able to measure the oxygen content of our blood, useful data for both health and fitness measures. A separate chip analysis reveals plenty of scope for both performance and energy efficiency gains in future models."
  9. Armen macrumors 604


    Apr 30, 2013
    Two things:

    - I have had a simliar experience. The watch has to be worn a little higher than normal for the HR sensor to read properly.
    - A software update can possibly improve the HR sensors performance.
  10. kevroc macrumors 6502

    Oct 15, 2011
    If you look at the problems with the Fitbit and MS Band, you'll see that tracking HR by a means other than a chest strap is simply not reliable for real workouts.

    For those people that consider a relaxing walk "exercise", well it's perfect for them...
  11. BD1 macrumors 6502

    Jun 27, 2007
    I am having excellent results using the AW for a variety of workouts (outdoor run, elliptical, p90x, etc.). Here a thread I started that has some info for those interested. There are a number of threads where people are having good results and accurate HR recordings.
  12. Symtex macrumors 6502a

    Jan 27, 2005
    I've been saying for weeks. It will never be as accurate as a strap because if the chest strap is closer to the source. Optical reader are not as fast in reading spikes. If you are serious about monitoring your HR, get a chest trap. Simple as that.
  13. texasstar1981 macrumors regular

    May 4, 2015
    if I wear the watch one notch tighter (BSB) than usual for work-outs ... then the HR monitoring works just fine.

    Again - the watch has to have a very snug fit and the sensors have to be on your skin all the time (even with movements or vibrations)... I don't mind having a tight fitting watch for work-outs but for during the day I prefer to have a slightly looser fit. Again - the HR works great for 80% during the day but you can get funky readings if the watch sensor do not touch your skin or are moving why talking the measurement...
  14. BrianNH thread starter macrumors member

    Apr 20, 2015
    I believe it's accurate when it's locked in. The trouble is in a real world of exercise it doesn't seem to stay that way. The trouble with most of those reviews is that they don't seem to indicate details of how it was tested. Most of the ones I've seen focused on running which is where I've had the best results. Hopefully software can improve the responsiveness.
  15. fanta88 macrumors 6502

    Apr 10, 2015
    Yeah, I was going to say the same thing. I checked the link and the original story, but couldn't find a clear statement on methodology. It does seem like running provides the most accurate results.

    Also, my watch is definitely tight and in contact with my wrist while exercising. I move it up around an inch up my arm from where I normally wear it.

    I guess it's just a disappointment because my expectations for the watch as a fitness tracker were somewhat higher than the reality seems to be for me. Oh well.

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