It seems not all sports are created equal when it comes to heart health. A new Withings study reveals which sports make our heart peak the most, and how this relates to our overall fitness.
Thanks to the advent of fitness trackers and smartwatches, scientists have an unprecedented wealth of data they can use for research studies. But manufacturers of wearables have also recognized the value of having access to such information. Fitbit taps into its user base from time to time to draw interesting insights, and now Withings has done the same.
For the study, the Nokia owned outfit anonymized and aggregated heart rate data from more than 42,000 of its Steel HR users. This Withings device is for people that prefer something that combines the look and feel of a traditional watch, with abilities that are evident in today’s smartwatches. Steel HR combines the best of both worlds whilst packing some serious smarts under the hood. Its also the only analogue type device with built-in heart rate monitoring.
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The criteria for the study was that users participated in sports and forms of exercises at least 15 times in the 5 months prior to the study. Two key metrics were looked at: maximum heart rate (HRmax) and average overnight heart rate.
HRmax is the highest heart rate an individual can achieve without severe problems through exercise stress, and generally decreases with age. For general purposes, a formula is often employed to estimate a person’s maximum heart rate. The most widely cited formula for is: HRmax = 220 − age.
The basal or resting heart rate is defined as the heart rate when a person is awake, in a neutrally temperate environment, and has not undergone any recent exertion or stimulation. The typical resting heart rate in adults is 60–100 beats per minute. For endurance athletes at the elite level, it is not unusual to have a resting heart rate between 33 and 50 bpm. Your resting heart rate is one of the best indicators of your overall health and fitness. Steel HR does not give resting heart rate values but it does give an overage overnight heart rate, which should correlate closely.
The graph below charts maximum heart rate value of users in the study and shows how this relates to their average overnight heart rate.
A general correlation can be seen between sports activities which make the heart work harder and a lower overnight heart rate. However, we do see some variations within this general pattern.
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Skiiers seem to be the fittest of the bunch, with runners, swimmers, soccer players, squash players and bikers following closely behind. At the other end of the scale was hiking, pilates, yoga and dancing – activities which are undeniably healthy, but do not require your heart to work as hard.
Withings rightly concludes that “any physical activity is better than none, but activities that cause a higher peak heart rate may be the most beneficial to your overall heart health”.