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Apple Watch Heart Rate sensor not giving proper readings during intense exercises like P90x3 and Insanity

Views: 855 Replies: 14
I have been using my Apple Watch to track my workout sessions and for past few days I have noted that when ever I am doing intense workouts where there is lot of hand movements like P90x3 or Insanity the Apple watch heart rate sensors gives wrong readings. For example, at the peak of P90x3 workout when I am totally out of breath, the Apple watch heart rate sensor will show heart rate as 62 or 70, but the heart should be in excess of 150+. Today, I tried using a Polar heart rate strap and Polar watch on one wrist and Apple watch on other wrist while doing P90x3 Accelerator workout. Many times it happened that Apple Watch was showing heart rate at around 70-80 while the polar was showing heart rate at 160+.

I wear the Apple watch snugly, so I don't thing it is happening because it's loose. However, the watch does move a little on hand while exercising.
Asked: 17:06 13/02/2016
awddesign 17:06 13/02/2016

I am having the same issues when I do P90X3 workouts. It seems like the watch doesn't have a way of keeping up with the watch sensors moving quickly because of rapid movements. Kind of frustrating and I'm hoping there will be a fix to it eventually. My heart rare is usually 160s during MMX and for half the workout it was reading 75.
branduin 17:06 13/02/2016
Hi Lalit,

I have also been using the apple watch (AW) for P90x3, as well as, running and cycling. I have tried pretty much all the wrist-based HRM products out there, from the Alpha Mio, FitBit Surge, Basis, to the AW. For running or cycling, all these products have no problem in keeping track of your HR. But once you start moving your wrist a lot (like lifting weights, push ups, pull ups, etc), you will lose the connection. This is a known limitation of a wrist based HRM product. Thats why you don't see Apple including body builders or cross-fitters in their advertising.

Knowing the limitation of this product, I have depended on my Jabra ear bud HRM, which has provided me with close to 100% accuracy. Pairing the earbud with my iPhone, I can use my AW to monitor my HR via Endomondo. Until Apple (and the industry) overcomes this issue, I'm happy with this solution.

barry 17:06 13/02/2016

That's great advice. However, the Jabra ear bud HRM costs $199. I was really counting on the AW having an acceptable HRM for my work outs (typically interval training--run/row/isometrics). That's a steep price to pay on top of the $700 I just shelled out on the AW. I have always used a Polar watch and chest strap HRM and was hoping to be free of the extra hardware. Today I worked out with both a Polar HRM and the AW. The AW, at times, had my HR up to 100 bpm below the Polar reading. Is there a more cost effective no strap solution?

branduin 17:06 13/02/2016
Hi Jeff,

We're in the same boat as we're doing the same type of exercise and would like to monitor our performance with a HRM. I tried using my Polar chest strap HRM with the AW and found out that it worked well. But I dislike wearing the chest strap. In fact, that's the reason I got the Jabra ear bud about a year ago.

I was kinda hoping that the AW can function as my primary HRM device, but it also has the same limitation as the other wrist based HRMs in the market.

There is another product out there that hasn't been mass marketed yet but I think it has potential. It's called the 'Atlas Wearable'. I heard Apple hired one of their key designers to work on improving the AW. So hopefully we'll see an improvement of the AW soon, either through a software upgrade or a better hardware in the future.

ales_zeppelin 17:06 13/02/2016
I've been using my Apple Watch for about 2 weeks. It is not effective as a heart rate monitor for intense exercise. I am an experienced HRM user (mostly Polar) and I too was hoping that the Apple Watch would do away with the need for a chest strap but this is not the case. When I am sitting down or walking around slowly the HRM seems fairly accurate (although sometimes the reading is too low) but if I measure my hear rate during a Crossfit session it is very inaccurate, it particularly seems to miss the near peak heart rates (eg. it will give a reading of around 110 when my actual heart rate is around 150) and sometimes it fails to get any reading at all. I sweat quite heavily and I find that during Crossfit or power yoga the watch ceases to function as an HRM when I am sweating heavily and working out at high intensity. This is very disappointing and I am hopeful that future software upgrades will be able to improve the reliability and accuracy of the HRM. Hopefully the fault is not with the sensor itself but the software. I think Apple will get this right eventually but I think its completely wrong of them to sell a watch with a HRM which doesn't work when you are doing intense exercise because that is an important group of users.
talenthost 17:06 13/02/2016
Thanks for your post, same issue here w CrossFit and even w lower anaerobic demand weight training. I was told by an Apple retail employee that, "It's the most accurate non-chest strap HR monitor ever made," and since I've had Mios, I thought that was pretty darn impressive. The Workout app allows you to choose from, in my opinion, pretty anemic low-intensity workouts. If you really are an athlete or are even remotely fit, this interval measuring and inaccuracy at higher intensity is a deal-breaker. I have many active friends and colleagues, and very few of them would be pleased about relegating their workouts to the silver sneaker regimen that the AW appears to cater to. Overall, I love the watch, but this may be something I can't get past. I expect Apple marketing and retail to be a LOT more forthright re HR accuracy and significant workout choice limitations, as well as the inability to choose continuos vs interval monitoring.
skylo 17:06 13/02/2016
I've had a version of this, but where my heart rate reading seems to match with my Polar, the calorie burn counts differs by a pretty wide margin. Still, I'm with most of you as half the reason I bought this thing was to hopefully retire the Polar for good, but there's something to be said for company whose been at this a lot longer than .
skylo 17:06 13/02/2016
I think the key word is "non chest strap". Looking like that may be unavoidable.
silenced 17:06 13/02/2016
I Do intense p90x type workouts as well and I have had almost no trouble with the Apple watch heart rate sensor being accurate, it will commonly be above 150 bpm and I've manually checked my heart to compare. I noticed when I first got the watch that a lot of movement could shake the watch around so much it wouldn't be able to stay in the same spot to get a continuous reading. I found if you just make sure it's tight enough then it stays consisten. Every time I workout I push the watch up my wrist a little higher then normal (not so much that it's uncomfortable) so it's a little more snug and then as I workout every so often I'll just check it to make sure it's in the same spot, before it moves again. I watch my heart rate closely during the whole workout and I've found it to be very accurat. And this is almost every day.
mickdaddy 17:06 13/02/2016
I have noticed something similar.

I wore my Apple Watch during a recent 5K race and used the Workout app to track my results. Afterwards, the supposedly continuous HR readings as shown by the Health app were all over the place. In addition, the watch quoted my average HR at a extremely low 112bpm. For background, I ran the race in 22:37 (7:17 pace) which for me is about my current max performance. Needless to say, my actual HR was at/near maximum for the entire 22 mins.

The HR readings in the iPhone Health app showed my heart rate between 165bpm and 175bpm for 2 mins near the start of the race, then for 4 mins showed my HR in the area of 90bpm. Then 3 mins later jumped to 182-185bpm. Then returned to 90-95bpm for 2 mins. Then 1 reading at 161bpm and then back down to the low 90s. There were several periods of time where no reading was taken at all. It continued this pattern for the rest of the race.

I had my sport band at a very snug fit, virtually no sliding at all.

Obviously, this fits with other posts about erratic HR readings involving intense exercise and lots of arm movement. I also use the Workout app during strength training and have noticed similar erratic readings -- particularly when doing squats. I can feel my HR in my neck and am breathing very hard and my watch will give a HR reading in the low 60s.

I think I will try wearing the watch with the sensors pointed at the inside of my wrist next time to see if I get similar erratic readings.

Apple Watch Heart Rate sensor not giving proper readings during intense exercises like P90x3 and Insanity

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