Review: WHOOP fitness tracker

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We trialled this beautifully-understated fitness/sleep tracking device to see if it would make us whoop with joy or holler for something else.

 


GO LONG   GO SHORT
  • Sleek and appealing design – simple yet effective
  • Sometimes inaccurate readings whilst exercising – due mostly to arm movement/interference
  • Excellent user experience via the app – lots of data and data visualisation
  • Expensive in the long-term – $30 a month recurring fee
  • Monthly membership service – mitigates competitors’ costly RRP
  • Needs the app to be open all the time on mobile device

 

SCORE: 5/5 ***** User interface and user experience: How positive or negative is the experience when using the product and associated apps, login pages, product support and associated services?
SCORE: 3/5 *** How does it stack-up with competitors or similar products or services?
SCORE: 3/5 *** How well has the company conducted or utilised scientific research and studies to validate its product/service?
SCORE: 5/5 ***** How applicable is it to the Longevity marketplace and the daily life of a Longevity enthusiast?
SCORE: 4/5 *** How easy it is for a layperson to use the product/service and its associated benefits in the context of Longevity?

We scored WHOOP at 21/25, here’s the low-down:

Earlier this week we reported on the seemingly-unassailable rise of WHOOP’s personal, wearable fitness tracker. Having used my WHOOP band, 24 hours a day for well over 2 months, I can safely say I’m impressed.

The device has helped me make some significant discoveries about my daily routine, health and general wellbeing. From experimenting with CRON (Calorie Restriction with Optimum Nutrition diet), taking new supplements, trying a new night-time routine through to taking only cold showers, my time with WHOOP has been a voyage of discovery and long may it continue!

The WHOOP band tracks three key metrics: Recovery, Strain and Sleep, through the use of an optical heart rate sensor on the underside of the band. WHOOP strain is calculated by the duration of time you spend in each of your max heart rate zones, established from your maximum heart rate. Each percentile has a different weight to how much Strain will increase [1].

WHOOP analytics. Source: WHOOP

As for Recovery, there are three key metrics that make up your Recovery: Heart Rate Variability (HRV), Resting Heart Rate (RHR) and Hours of Sleep.

A key component of WHOOP, and one of its major selling points, is its ability to track HRV. Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a measure of the difference in the amount of time between successive heartbeats and is captured during your last period of ‘Slow Wave Sleep’ each night. HRV is an indicator of the health of your autonomic nervous system, and a trending increase in HRV leads to a stronger Recovery [2].

This is all relatively straightforward and not necessarily unique to WHOOP; however, the beauty of WHOOP is found in its Android and iOS application and its data visualisation capabilities (as with most devices that exist in a relatively saturated market).

Rest for the wicked

The WHOOP app offers two coaches: sleep and strain. Sleep coach suggests how much sleep your body needs, which in my experience (through testing of the various choices on sleep coach – peak, perform and get-by) seems to be pretty accurate!

As for the Strain coach, this suggests an optimal level of strain each day, based on your recovery; this helps you to progress your fitness goals without overreaching, which could cause poor recovery the following day. This is useful in setting out just how hard you can/should push yourself each time you decide to train/participate in some form of sport/activity.

Train gain

The strain data is useful for recognising how hard you are training and whether or not you are making progress with fitness goals, sport, etc, but it is also useful for noticing how you are coping with everyday life. Strain levels will increase due to stress, both mental and physical, which is an indication of the effects of stress in work, personal life and everyday interactions. This became abundantly clear to me when I spent a day at the racetrack drifting, my strain level was akin to a strong 5km run and yoga session!

Enough stress

Likewise, you can see the effects of stress and or lack of stress on recovery data too. During this period, it was clear when I was experiencing high stress, as my strain level would increase and my recovery would decrease; this happened even on days when I wasn’t training!

william birch - Monthly P.A. Oct 2020

Your intrepid WHOOP tester says

What I have found most interesting about WHOOP is how the data can be useful in a community setting, as knowledge shared is powerful and the WHOOP community is strong and active!

There are numerous posts in Reddit groups showing data reflecting stress (from the strain accrued from planning a weekend away to a marriage proposal), the effects of COVID – both symptomatic and asymptomatic – with many individuals able to pre-diagnose C19 from an increase in respiratory rate, decrease in HRV and decrease in recovery! In short, the applications seem endless and to data junkies, it is a great tool. With the accompanying WHOOP journal – asking you particular questions about the previous day when you wake up – it is easy to track behavioural and lifestyle trends.

WHOOP sleep goals. Source: WHOOP

Another string to the WHOOP bow, is its accessorise-ability, with multiple different bands on sale. From rose gold vegan leather to hydrophobic knitted fabric, there is a style for everyone, making this already appealing design that little bit better.

That is not to say the WHOOP band is without its faults. It is rather expensive at $30 a month (which doesn’t sound like a lot, until you think of the yearly cost and its lack of multi-use features), it is sometimes (although I haven’t experienced this) inaccurate with its HR measurements and it doesn’t have a screen! Also, for some, the vast quantity of data could be bewildering, but I guess that is where the device is marketed correctly – if you don’t want the data, this device isn’t for you.

Having said that, as a paying member, I will happily continue my membership as it has had a positive effect on my general wellbeing and I am confident it will continue to do so. Whether you are a fitness enthusiast, or merely want to track your general health and wellbeing – and the various interventions/experiments you undertake – this is a cracking wearable.

Whoop metrics. Source: Whoop

 

Here are some of my personal findings:

Increase:

– Meditatation and daily yoga

– Sleep next to your partner (if you have one)

– Magnesium supplementation before bed

– Reading daily – especially before bed

– Running/jumping rope daily – 11+ strain exercise

– Cold showers

Decrease:

– Strength training with no cardio

– Night-time bright light (use F.lux)

– Sugar 5 hours before bed

– Sleeping alone

– High-intensity television/gaming before sleep

 

[1] https://support.whoop.com/hc/en-us/articles/360019453214-WHOOP-Strain

[2] https://support.whoop.com/hc/en-us/articles/360019453654-How-is-Recovery-calculated-

Images courtesy of William Birch and WHOOP
William Birch
William Birch is a longevity enthusiast; armed with a degree in Philosophy, Religion and Ethics from King's College London, he has spent his career helping facilitate the growth and development of high growth start-up and scale-up businesses. From AI and machine learning to drug development and healthtech, William now focuses his attention on the growth of the longevity industry as part of the Sales and Marketing team for First Longevity.

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