Image source: Garmin

Garmin users can get access to app that alerts to stress eating

Garmin is participating in a study with RAE Health to understand how stress effects cravings. Those with a compatible Garmin device are invited to join in. They will get access to a novel app that alerts you to these unhealthy eating habits before they happen.


Stress can be healthy and unhealthy

Stress is an everyday part of life – for some more than others. Small amounts of stress are considered to be healthy. They can help to improve how your heart works and even strengthen your immune system.

Essential reading: Best fitness trackers and health gadgets

Chronic stress, however, is a problem. Amongst a plethora of negative effects on your body it also seems to affect food preferences. This is because stress produces elevated levels of a hormone referred to as cortisol. A consequence of this are increased cravings for sugary and salty foods. They offer a simple but unhealthy way to make yourself feel better in the short term.

Most Garmin fitness trackers and smartwatches these days track stress around the clock. The readings are not perfect but they do offer a decent estimate of the pressure you are under.

Garmin taps into heart rate variability (HRV) readings to arrive at these numbers. This is the variation in the time interval between your heart beats. Rather counter-intuitively, the more irregular these beats – the less stress you are feeling.

For ease of understanding, Garmin slots the stress readings into one of four groups. A reading up to 25 points indicates you are at rest. 26-50 shows low stress, 51-75 medium stress and anything above is high stress.

Now scientists are starting to tap into the wealth of data dished out by these devices.


Research on stress and cravings

Garmin has joined forces with RAE Health on a study to better understand stress cravings and how they affect your body. The research is actually building on previous studies conducted by RAE Health together with the University of Massachusetts and the University of Texas.

If you’re interested the papers are available to view in the Journal of Psychiatry and Brain Science. Some can also be found in the Drug and Alcohol Dependence Journal.

Garmin data will be used to expand on these studies. Initially only Vivosmart 4 users were invited to join in the research, but this has since been expanded. Participants are given access to a consumer version of the RAE Health app.

The app taps into your Garmin Connect stress and other data and spits out stress craving alerts – often before they happen and before you are even aware. At least, that’s the idea. The software has a complex biometric algorithm that alerts you to these situations.

One can easily imagine this type of functionality becoming part of fitness apps we already use, perhaps on an optional basis. It is a great example of leveraging existing sensor technology for more advanced insights.

In our recent interview with Valencell President & Co-Founder Dr. Steven LeBoeuf, he sees ample room for growth in this area – using existing sensors for more in-depth analysis. He also expects that we will see more “sensor fusion”, using multiple sensor modalities together to generate a more comprehensive physiological picture.


How to participate in the study

Review: Garmin Vivosmart 4, great for sleep and casual fitness tracking

At the start only Vivosmart 4 users were invited to join the study. We were not really sure why as there are many other Garmin wearables that can track stress. Having said that, Vivosmart 4 is a great little device. In our review we found it to be a perfect fit for sleep and casual activity tracking. Now it seems availability of the app has been expanded to other devices including the Fenix 6, Venu, Instinct, Forerunner 945 and Forerunner 245 Music.

If you’re holding on to one of these and would like access to the RAE Health app, you can join here. The link takes you to a 2 minute survey you will need to fill in before downloading the software.

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