Microsoft Band’s Heart Rate Zones Might Be the Single Most Important Feature of Any Wearable

Microsoft Band’s Heart Rate Zones Might Be the Single Most Important Feature of Any Wearable

You’ve heard it a thousand times, but the American Obesity Epidemic is a very real thing. American bodies are constantly expanding to try and keep up with the amount of supersized food or the poor quality of the food American’s are enticed to eat. It’s a very real problem.

You may not realize it but exercise and activity only make up about 10% of the total health equation. Proper sleep makes up another 15-20% and then diet (food, water) makes up the rest. If you fail to change your diet, you’ll never see long-term dividends reclaiming your health. And, if you don’t find time to get proper sleep, your body stays on-edge constantly from stress and fatigue.

Fitness wearables are seen as a potential cure, and they are definitely a step in the right direction. But, it’s all too common to see a fitness wearable-adorned wrist hanging out the driver-side window in the drive-thru line at McDonald’s.  Some seem to think that just by slapping on a fitness device it makes them healthier. It doesn’t do that, but for most it does remind them to try harder – or at least get up from the couch and move every once in a while.

But, there’s an even deeper misconception that I’ve discovered, and yet another reason why the Microsoft Band continues to lead the pack.

I’ve been testing quite a few different devices recently in an effort to really provide concrete evidence just how valuable the Microsoft Band’s feature set is. I’ve been enticed by the beauty of the Fitbit Blaze, the reported accuracy of the Garmin vivoactive HR, and the simplicity of the Xiaomi Mi Band 2. I’ll be delivering a full review of each, but suffice to say, I’m still wearing the Microsoft Band 2. The only device that has come close to pushing the Microsoft Band off my wrist is the Garmin vivoactive HR. Poor Fitbit…as much as the company tries to, it just can’t move beyond a simple pedometer. And, obviously, as a serious, hardcore runner, the Xiaomi Mi Band 2 just isn’t enough for me. However, it may be the best entry level fitness band available.  

There’s a few feature reasons why the Microsoft Band continues to sit at the end of my arm. Those features are either half implemented or completely non-existent in the others. For proposed fitness devices, they’re definitely missing some big details. To be fair, some of the other Garmin offerings deliver on these features, but you have to pay over $500 for them. The Microsoft Band provides these in a compact price, which incidentally, a small size is sitting right around $150 on Amazon currently.

But, speaking to that misconception that I’ve discovered, one of the more recently added features, the Heart Rate Zones, may be one of the most important features of any fitness wearable today.

The whole fitness wearable industry is hung up on counting steps. Number of steps per day is being proposed as the new baseline for whether or not a person is being fit. While movement is better than being inactive and steps are better than not getting up and walking around, the wearable industry is creating the next health industry myth. If I walk 20k steps today but never raise my heart rate zone while doing it, I haven’t improved cardiovascular or pulmonary function from the day before, nor have I kick-started the fat burning process or stoked the body’s detoxification processes.

Microsoft Band’s Heart Rate Zones feature gives you on-screen visual indicators of when you are pushing your heart rate into Hard or Very Hard Heart Rate Zones, which is essential to improving overall fitness, burning fat, increasing oxygen capacity, and invoking the regulation of the body’s regular functions. As you’re walking, running, biking, hiking, punching a speed bag, jumping rope, or whatever you do, you can monitor to make sure you’re keeping your heart rate elevated into the zones that are required for improvement. This feature is a great way to motivate to continue improving, even on those days you just don’t feel like it.

Currently, this feature is only provided a visible indicator, but Microsoft has promised to bring physical indicators, too, through wrist vibrations when moving between heart rate zones. In fact, it was supposed to make it in the initial feature release (Microsoft even announced it as such), but something happened somewhere.

Most of the other services have a similar definition to heart rate zones in their services. For example, Strava has it’s “suffer score” and Garmin has it’s “intensity minutes.” But, they are only provided as data points that can be viewed after-the-fact – not as real-time alerts that are actionable.

Obviously, this feature can easily be added to the other manufacturer’s devices through a firmware and software update and I fully expect it will, but it shows that the Microsoft Band team seems to be more in tune with the health and fitness industry than those that have been doing it longer. I don’t know about you, but as a person who is constantly trying to improve personal health and fitness, it gives me a sense of ease knowing that the Microsoft Band team is looking at these things and bringing them to market quickly.

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