2 Hidden Useful Apple Health Kit Features

Updated: Feb 7

The Apple Watch has been pitched as a good training tool, especially with it's Nike version and new GPS technology, meaning you don't have to lug your phone around when you're training. It's heart rate monitor is really useful for training and general monitor of wellbeing, which sync's smoothly with the Apple Health Kit app.

There are a few measurements that you might already have on your phone that you didn't know about that can help your training and improve performance!

1) Heart rate variability

Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Heart rate variability (HRV) is defined as the variation of the time interval between heart beats. So although your heart rate might be 60bpm... that doesn't mean it religiously beats on the second, every second; it might beat once, 0.5s later and again 1.5s after that. So your HRV is a measurement of the time between beats and is measures in milliseconds (ms).

Average HRV Scores: Male vs Female & Ages

Generally speaking, if there is a lot of variation between the time between your heart beats, your HRV is high. If it is reasonably constant, your HRV is low. However it's also worth nothing that your HRV is unique... so you can't really compare it to other people; however you can compare it to your previous results, so you will be able to see if yours is increasing or decreasing. But basically; the higher, the better.

What can you use your HRV for?

1. Recovery - after an intense training session, your HRV will temporarily reduce. If you recover at a normal rate, your HRV will raise back to normal relatively quickly. If it remains low for a prolonged period, you may be overtraining.

2. Stress and poor sleep quality also reduce your HRV. This might be a sign that recovery/relaxation is required.

3. Sickness - your HRV can drop if you're about to become ill; even before you begin to feel any symptoms. This would be a good time to dose up on healthy foods high in vitamins and minerals and rest up to try and fight the illness before it really hits!

4. Dehydration - if you haven't drank enough, your HRV will reduce. Keep hydrated to maintain a good HRV, this will help you remain healthy.

5. Training - Your HRV can predict what type of training your body will respond to best for a short period of time. If you have a high HRV, you may respond better to high intensity exercise. Alternatively, if your HRV is low, you may respond better to a high volume of low intensity training.

2) VO2Max

What is VO2Max?

Another feature, again recorded on Apple Health Kit if you use the Apple Watch, is your VO2Max calculation.

VO2Max is your maximal oxygen uptake, which is the measurement of the maximum amount of oxygen you can use during intense exercise. Traditionally, to test it a physiologist would hook you up to a treadmill and some gadgets and make you run at a progressively difficult pace; and then measure how much oxygen you're taking in to essentially work out how fit you are!

It's a measurement that athletes of any sport involving some aspect of endurance will record, by either testing or predicting it through sub-maximal tests. It can however also be used to monitor general heart health, with a poor VO2Max meaning your heart could possibly not be as efficient as someone with a higher score. As you can see from the image above, the American Heart Association state that lower scores highlight certain health risks.

Average VO2Max score differ between ages and genders but the table below shows where you should be at for each group:

VO2Max Average scores for age group and gender.

How to measure it?

Your Apple Watch will automatically measure your VO2Max when you go for a run lasting over 20 minutes, as long as you're using the built in Workout app. Your measurement will then be stored in the Apple Health Kit app on your phone under "Health Data" and then "Activity". There are a number of different programmes that you'll be able to find that use your VO2Max score to improve your cardiovascular endurance, so it could be a really useful measurement if you're training for a sport or event... one that would only have been accessible to an athlete 10 years ago!

How do your measurements look? Comment below and send this to a friend that might fine it useful!

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