Last week, Fitbit announced it has now logged more than 150 billion hours’ worth of heart-rate data, from millions of people all over the world. It also knows these people’s ages, sexes, locations, heights, weights, activity levels, and sleep patterns thus creating a gold mine of health revelations.
Most of the data demonstrates what cardiologists already know but there are some surprises. For example, women’s resting heartrates are not only higher than men’s but as they approach middle age it increases – stress, kids, lack of time to sustain a good diet? And then it oddly drops again, potentially down to an increasing use of betablockers, heart attack drugs or perhaps just plain old retirement!
On the exercise front there are some reassuring conclusions for us mere mortals. The research, exclusively made available to Yahoo shows that there’s not much of a change or benefit to your resting heart rate after 3-5 hours of exercise a week…still a fair bit but 30 minutes a day is at least achievable! What’s more, it shows it’s not beneficial just to exercise at the weekend and nothing else for the rest of the week – consistency is key.
But what if we, as individuals, start looking into our heart rate data more closely. Could we potentially change our lifestyle beyond just activity and sleep to improve our health and stress levels?
A short while ago, I heard someone discussing that they had an extremely high heart rate. His doctor gave him a monitor to wear for two weeks and analysed the results. At first, they couldn’t make sense of it as he was just sitting on the sofa watching TV whenever his heartrate peaked and so they continued to drill down into his habits. It turned out that every time his heart rate raised to a dangerous level he was watching his favourite football team on TV! The prescription – no more watching football games until he had started gently exercising and eating more healthily. What more of an incentive could a man need?
It got me thinking about my own heart rate. I have a ‘Geek watch’ (as my husband fondly calls it), which I initially used for running but then started using it as part of my working day. At the end of each day I looked at when my heartrate was highest and when it was the lowest and pinpointed my activities.
My heartrate was almost always at its highest in the run up to long, internal conference calls. Meanwhile it was at its lowest when I was informally brainstorming or chatting with my fellow colleagues – something I realised that I never made enough time for.
What does this tell me? It tells me that I need to either change the way I prepare and think about those challenging conference calls, change the way that they run or reduce the number of them in my working day or week. Likewise, my colleagues, who I was chatting and brainstorming with, were also potentially gaining the benefits of these less formal sessions and a friendly catch-up. So I’ve made more time to make that happen.
But think of what it could tell HR teams about how individuals, divisions or entire offices feel about their work or potentially or how many staff are heading for burnout? So, in the same way Fitbit can reveal patterns and create behavioural change in exercise and sleep, just imagine the potential for this type of data in other industries. Or at the very least, how many of those conference calls you may want to skip!