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Fitness Data FAQ

This fitness data FAQ answers some of the basic questions about tracking activity, heart rate, VO2max, sleep and recovery.

Tracking fitness data is useless – if you don’t use it.

Fitness watches automatically track several metrics, but if you never look at the numbers or don’t know what to make of them, all that data goes to “waste”.

If you track everything, but don’t know why exactly or what to do with all that information, here are the answers to some of the most frequently asked questions about fitness data.

How much physical activity do I need to stay healthy?

The average adult needs at least 150 minutes of moderate to vigorous intensity physical activity per week with 20-60 minutes of activity in each session. To improve different areas of fitness, you should mix cardio workouts, strength training and mobility exercises.

To monitor your daily activity and vary your workouts sufficiently, a smart fitness watch with activity tracking and personalized workout tips may come in handy.

What’s the point of a training diary?

A training diary helps you visualize and monitor your workouts.

Seeing your workouts in numbers and visual graphs can boost your workout motivation and inspire you to keep going – as seeing fitness results may take some time (it always does).

If you’re using a fitness watch with an app, like Polar Flow, to track your workouts, your workout data will be logged automatically with stats for each workout and summaries of your training hours, sessions, calories burned, heart rate zones, training benefit and training load.

Why would I need to know my maximum heart rate?

You’ll need to know your maximum heart rate to calculate your personal heart rate zones  (or your fitness watch sets them for you based on your maximum heart rate).

Using your personal heart rate zones when training will allow you to adjust exercise intensity to match and serve your fitness goals.

Most sports watches and fitness trackers also use maximum HR in several other calculations.

What’s a normal resting heart rate?

The resting heart rate for an adult typically varies between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but a well-trained athlete’s resting heart rate can fall as low as below 40 beats per minute.

Compared to someone whose heart works 100 times per minute, the athlete’s heart would only need to take on around 40 % of the workload of the less trained heart.

Why is a lower resting heart rate better than higher?

The most significant health benefit of a low resting heart rate is a substantially decreased risk of heart disease and cardiac events, like heart attacks.

The potential immediate downsides of a fast-beating heart are low energy levels, chest pain or discomfort, reduced blood circulation, and chest pain or discomfort.

What can my resting heart rate tell me about my fitness?

The point of measuring your resting heart rate is to evaluate your recovery status and the development of your aerobic fitness.

To monitor your recovery, possible overload state and fitness progress, you should always measure your resting heart rate in the same or very similar circumstances.

If your heart rate remains high after exercise, it may mean your exercise intensity was too high, or it could mean a case of deconditioning.

A high resting heart rate can be a sign of a low fitness level or a symptom of high stress levels.

How can I use heart rate zones during exercise?

You can use heart rate zones to control the intensity of your workout. This will help you make sure that what you’re doing is aligned with the purpose of your workout and adjust the intensity of your workout accordingly.

Training with heart rate will allow you to monitor that your exercise intensity is just right during different parts of your workout (warm-up, steady state, high intensity, cool-down).

For example, by exercising in a low heart rate zone, you’ll improve your steady-state endurance and teach your body to use fat as energy, whereas working out in heart rate zone 4 will increase your speed endurance.

What should my target HR be during my workouts?

That depends on your personal fitness goals and the purpose of your workout. Training in different heart rate zones (defined as percentages of your maximum heart rate) improves different areas of fitness.

What is VO2max and how do I measure it?

VO2max (the golden standard of aerobic fitness measurement) is the maximal rate of oxygen your body can use during exercise.

Your muscles burn oxygen to generate power: the fitter your body is, the more oxygenated blood it can pump to your muscles, and the more oxygen your muscles can burn, the more power they can generate.

You can measure your VO2max with maximal exercise tests, like the treadmill VO2max test, that are accurate, but also tough. Moreover, you can estimate your VO2max with various sub-maximal tests that you can do in a lab or in field conditions.

Non-exercise tests, like the Polar Fitness Test are not as accurate, but they’re easy, safe and convenient for setting your baseline.

What does VO2max reveal about my fitness?

VO2max tells you a lot about your cardiovascular fitness, giving you a good understanding of your performance in sports that require aerobic capacity, such as running or aerobic-based group exercise classes.

If you’re aerobically fit (if you have a high VO2max), your cardiovascular system – your heart, lungs and blood vessels – has been conditioned to deliver a lot of oxygen to the muscles and your muscles have been conditioned to use as much of that oxygen as possible. That means you’ll be able to, for example, run longer distances faster than someone with a low VO2max.

What’s the difference between training benefit and training load?

Training Benefit refers to the effectiveness of your training session. By monitoring the training benefit of your workouts, you’ll learn how different types of workouts improve different areas of your fitness. This allows you to compare different sessions and see how they affect your overall fitness and performance.

Training Load measures how straining your training is for your body, which helps you to estimate how your workouts affect your body, track progress and plan your training more effectively.

Monitoring your training load allows you to estimate the time you need to recover from a particular session (or your fitness/sports watch measures and shows you your recovery status).

Why track calories if I’m not trying to lose weight?

It’s important to know your energy expenditure whether you’re trying to lose, gain or maintain weight. The amount of calories burned per day and during exercise varies a lot. Knowing your calorie expenditure helps you plan your meals accordingly – it’s key to make sure that you get enough calories to make up for the energy you use.

Depending on the fitness/ sports watch you’re using, your daily calorie expenditure estimate will be based on several metrics, such as daily activity, the intensity of your workouts and also your personal information, such as height, weight, age, gender and maximum heart rate.

Why should I monitor my recovery?

For your training to be effective and progressive, you need to train hard enough and often enough. On the flip side, you should avoid training too much and make sure recover in between workouts to improve your performance and avoid injuries.

Learning to monitor how recovered you feel is key, but if you’ve been overtraining for a while and fatigue has become the new normal for you, you may not notice the warning signals your body is sending you. That’s why it’s good to monitor your recovery and let data guide you towards better fitness results, safely.

What’s the benefit of tracking my sleep?

Sleep tracking helps you see patterns that lead to a good night’s sleep. If you monitor your sleep consistently, you can see how your daily activities, such as eating patterns, training, or stress from everyday life affect your sleep.

Restorative rest and sleep will boost recovery, which in turn will help you reach your training goals and support muscle growth.

If you liked this post, don’t forget to share so that others can find it, too.

Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

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