Firstbeat Analytics: The Strong Partner that Joined Garmin

The well-known brand, Firstbeat Analytics, that had supported many wearable device models, officially joined Garmin’s big family. For all the users of the running watches of various brands, this company is certainly no stranger.

Extended Reading: Garmin Acquired the Well-Known Global Physiological Data Analysis Company: Firstbeat Analytics

Firstbeat originated in Finland, from a joint research conducted by the Finnish Olympic Sports Research Office and the University of Jyväskylä. A huge database was developed through an evaluation of over 100,000 actual data accumulated for 20 years, such as the VO2 max and energy consumption measurement in the laboratory.

The Firstbeat team is mainly endorsed by physiologists. The team’s main areas of expertise include important elements, such as training, performance, and recovery required by professional athletes:

  1. Measurement of autonomic nervous system function
  2. Training and performance of endurance sports, and the recovery after training
  3. Physiological and psychological tracking and prediction of athlete’s overtraining
  4. Tracking of physiological and psychological pressure

Next, you’re probably wondering, in my Garmin watch, which data is from Firstbeat?


1. Heart Rate Variability & Stress Index

The stress index on the Garmin watch tells us when we should relax. The reference indicator behind it is the heart rate variability from Firstbeat. The rhythm of the heartbeat can provide us with a lot of information. Heart rate variability is the degree of difference between different heartbeat intervals. It is affected by the regulation of the autonomic nervous system. The following will also affect heart rate variability:

Source: Firstbeat

During relaxation and recovery, the heart beats comparatively more irregularly, and the heart rate variability increases. Under pressure, the heart rate variability will then be comparatively lower. The heart rate and the heart rate variability are roughly inversely related. The external factors which affect the heart rate variability include the burdens of training and work. The internal factors include malnutrition, illness, and drinking of alcohol, etc.

Through Firstbeat’s heart rate variability database, Garmin further converts the data into stress index and body energy index. This allows us to quickly and more concisely understand our physical stress status.


2. VO2 Max

VO2 max represents the maximum amount of oxygen that the human body can consume in one minute – an important cardiopulmonary capacity indicator. The traditional VO2 max was carried out in the laboratory, using the maximum strength to exercise. Specific equipment is required to collect and obtain the gas being breathed in order to analyze it. It is relatively inconvenient. Moreover, the physical and mental pressure is also greater for the user as one needs to push oneself to one’s physical limit.

Source: Firstbeat

Firstbeat brings VO2 max out of the laboratory, making it easier to track our physical fitness in running, cycling, and other sports. Through multi-point analysis of the relationship between the heartbeat and speed during exercise, and a unique algorithm, one can obtain the oxygen uptake information at that moment. This is of great value for the long-term tracking of physical progress.

The value of VO2 max allows users to use a consistent method to see the improvement of physical fitness. For beginners, through 4-10 weeks of appropriate training, the value of VO2 max can be effectively increased by 10-20%. For more advanced trainers, the growth rate will be less obvious or more volatile.


3. Lactate Threshold

The rate of lactate metabolism and production is equal when lactate threshold is reached. This shows a stable balance. For most people, the lactate concentration in the blood is about 4 mmol/L. At present, the detection of the rate of lactate threshold is mainly based on a continual tracking of lactate concentration by a gradual increase in speed, combined with a continuous blood sampling through fingers or earlobes. For most people, this operation method is more invasive and relatively difficult.

Through Firstbeat technology, Garmin watches can automatically detect the heart rate and pacing corresponding to the lactate threshold (heart rate band must be worn) during exercise in a non-invasive situation. The watch mainly uses the analysis of our heart rate, pace, and heart rate variability and the evaluation of the change in our respiratory rate. When the lactate threshold intensity is exceeded, the body’s required oxygen consumption and lactate concentration will rise rapidly. This is reflected on the rapid rise in heart rate and respiratory frequency. The watch can then use this inflection point to calculate the corresponding heart rate and pacing.

Extended Reading: Use Garmin Watch, and Quickly Understand Your Physical Fitness through “Lactate Threshold”


4. Excess Post-Exercise Oxygen Consumption (EPOC) and Training Effect

EPOC is a type of training physiological index, with mL/kg as the unit. It can reflect the fluctuation of the body state after exercise. It can be used as a reference for the load and recovery. Similar to the measurement of oxygen uptake, EPOC must also be collected in the laboratory through specific instruments. Firstbeat uses an algorithm to accurately estimate the EPOC by detecting the heart rate during training and the fitness index at that moment. In the Garmin watch, it is converted into training load.

Based on the known EPOC load value, Firstbeat further calculates the training effect (Training Effect) of said training session. The value ranges from 0 to 5, which respectively symbolizes the mildest training to overtraining. In recent years, it has been further divided into aerobic and anaerobic. This helps us better grasp the effectiveness of each training session.

Source: Firstbeat

Many Garmin professional training functions and health tracking data are from Garmin’s partner, Firstbeat Analytics. With Firstbeat, the training and health data presentation of Garmin watches in the future will be able to reach new heights.