Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Vivosmart HR review of Intensity Minutes (So intense, so fail)

At first, I thought the Intensity Minutes (IM) feature was more Garmin Fitness bloat.  How many metrics do we really need? Aren't steps and miles enough?

Then, I started to warm to the idea, especially after understanding there are two types of IMs -- moderate intensity, and vigorous intensity.  Vigorous minutes count for 2 moderate intensity minutes.  This way, you can set a week's goal and hit it with some intense minutes, running, elliptical or hopefully stationary bike (not walking/running/ellipticaling exercise) in my case, or with some moderate minutes - like walking which I do a lot of - particularly in a two dog household 



and with a downstairs treadmill + flat screen TV setup.



So I did a little math (emphasis on little):

4 days minimum of 30 minutes running = 240 intensity minutes
1 day minimum of 90 minutes running = 180 intensity minutes
420 intensity minutes from running alone

That's what I set my weekly goal as, with the expectation on a good week I will hit 720 minutes from running alone -- a three hour run equaling 360 minutes all by itself - and four additional runs averaging 45 minutes = 360, plus another five days of 20 minutes walking per day or some biking could easily get me up to 720.  What good are Garmin goals if you can't smash them on a regular basis?

Activity minutes seem to be activated, according to Garmin Connect, from ten continuous minutes of step activity.  I confirmed this today from a 10+ minute walk around the block with dog #1.  When I started walking, the IM screen on the Vivosmart HR started flashing.  And after ten minutes, the minutes started increasing.  This is what I'm talking about:




This is what Garmin Connect (web) looked like before my walk:



And after:

The math:

1180 fairly easy dog walking steps = 10 intensity minutes (and a heart rate spike to 98bpm). (Note - the distance on the band showed .38 miles on a 1 mile course, even though I've custom selected my step length properly.  Not sure what's going on, but I think the Vivosmart HR might be a little funky on the distance measurement - the Vivosmart classic was definitely better.  But I digress...


Now, for my next trick, a trip to the gym to see how a stationary bike ride (stepless motion but with an activity created on the watch) will work.

I hit the stationary bike for 15 minutes, creating an activity on the Vivosmart HR at the start, ending at the end, syncing when done.  I got a good HR reading, and pedaled away.  A few minutes into it my band slid down (I didn't take my own advice and tighten it a notch before exercise, serves me right) and had a little dropout until I readjusted it.  But it gave what seemed like an accurate hr reading which was expected.



Unfortunately, the minutes didn't show on my watch as Intensity Minutes.  Zero, zilch.  Let's examine what Garmin says about Intensity Minutes: "You must do at least 10 minutes of moderate or higher intensity activity at a time to get your health benefits and for your Garmin activity tracker to count it."  Meaning: waving your arms for 10 minutes, either running, walking, or ellipticaling but not biking, unless you pedal and flap your wings at the same time.

I repeated the exercise on an elliptical which bore this out.   20 minutes on the elliptical gave me 20 intensity (therefore they were moderate minutes) on the treadmill.  I kept my avg HR under 110 - not sure what the trigger is for vigorous intensity, but this workout didn't do it.





Garmin needs to allow the HRM to trigger activity minutes to make it useful.  Or bikers, yoga-ers, etc., will cry themselves to sleep at night onto their Vivosmart HR, possibly shorting out the Elevate HR modules on the fitband.

Otherwise, let's just stick to Total Activity Time (below, seen on Garmin Connect web), and Garmin should create a window for it on the Vivosmart HR and on Connect Mobile rather than the rather silly (in current incarnation) Intensity Minutes.



See newer post: Intensity Minutes part ii

33 comments:

  1. Thank you for posting this! I've been wondering how this all would work.

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  2. I did 2 hours on elliptical today, and it triggered ZERO intensity minutes....garbage vivostupid - i mean garmin vivosmart is a waste of money.

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    1. I also use an elliptical - but you need to just keep your arms free swinging instead of holding onto the bars. Then it will record both steps and IMs.

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  3. I;m getting nada on Intensity Minutes, doing serious fast bike riding.

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  4. 2 hrs on elliptical would initiate at least 120 IMs for me if I move my arms. I have had success on bike but only when proceeded by running or treadmill.

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  5. I like the garmin gear and have used a forerunner 210 for years. I have recently purchased a vivosmart HR, unfortunately the intensity minutes is crap. 30 minutes on an eliptical with my heart rate over 160 bpm as monitored on the 210 produced zero intensity minutes. What a pile of .... very disappointed with this so called feature.

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  6. Perhaps someone from Garmin is watching? I did 30 minutes on the elliptical today (a little time challenged today) with the 210 giving a heart rate between 50 and 60 ..... and for the first time ever I have an Intensity Minutes result !!!??? I received 90 Intensity Minutes for a 30 minute workout, so I am not sure how that works. Just in case we have Garmin noting these posts ... there is a 1 hour time difference discrepancy between the recorded results off the Forerunner 210 and the Vivosmart HR - both are set off the same profile ??

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  7. For those whose elliptical workout resulted in Intensity Minutes - did your elliptical machine have arms and were you using the arms?

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  8. I got them without using the upper body "arms" but move my human arms a bit. Without significant human arm movements you won't get IMs triggered.

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  9. Yep couldn't agree more - zip IMs despite cycling and walking at brisk pace. What's the story Garmin?!

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  10. Bought (2) VivoSmart HR's for Christmas and my wife and I walk about 1.5 hrs daily which translates to just over 5 miles. There are various hills and other challenges in our path to make it interesting, but ZERO intensity minutes are logged for either of us. Plus the steps are grossly under-counted on my unit even after calibrating three separate times under the direction of Garmin support. The VivoSmart HR does not work as advertised and I do not recommend this for any serious fitness goals.

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  11. Great post today. An interesting read for any person who would agree with your views. Long may these posts continue. runnium

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  12. Has anyone tried for cycling or elliptical, placing the band on your ankle ?

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  13. Has anyone tried for cycling or elliptical, placing the band on your ankle ?

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  14. You'd need very small ankles!

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  15. Haven't has an IM yet and I've had mine for two weeks with daily brisk walks of 1-2miles

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  16. After the update my IM count skyrocketed. I used to get nothing from a strength workout, but yesterday I gained about 65 min worth out of a 55 minute strength routine with 10 minutes of intervals on a stationary bike. I'm also getting them at work now. I have a physical job (I'm a baker and shove bread racks and boxes around all morning), but it leaves me wondering if I'm getting false high readings. It plays heck with mfp calories.

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  17. After the update my IM count skyrocketed. I used to get nothing from a strength workout, but yesterday I gained about 65 min worth out of a 55 minute strength routine with 10 minutes of intervals on a stationary bike. I'm also getting them at work now. I have a physical job (I'm a baker and shove bread racks and boxes around all morning), but it leaves me wondering if I'm getting false high readings. It plays heck with mfp calories.

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  18. After the update, I went from 21 minutes after three weeks of regular activity to 229 minutes in two days, many of those at work.

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  19. Somehow I have done 428 IM. I don't think it reset itself at midnight Saturday night. There is no way I have done that amount of excerise... Also since the update it doesn't always register steps and my move bar can cleared by walking up and down the hallway once.. It's a bit annoying

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  20. Fully agree. This flaw renders the current device useless. Just did 3 hours intense skiing, heart rate through the roof, intensity minutes 0. I've no doubt cycling and squash will have the same result. I do not walk or run. Does that make me sedentary?

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  21. i work in a sports store and with the amount of walking i did ...it produced no minutes.. now im pregnant and have a slightly higher heart rate.. i seem to meet my target... still not sure how they work it out....

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  22. This is a great article. It gave me a lot of useful information. thank you very much. baratos productos mejor

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  23. I have a low resting heart rate due to hypothyroidism and general fitness.

    Generally it takes 10-15 min for me to get into the 75-80% range in any cardio activity.

    The Garmin taught me to throw everything at it in the first 10-15 minutes. In my case, walking, biking, swimming, weights, stairs, kettleball, step and regular aerobics are enough to support muscle tone and fat loss, but NOT enough to register aerobically on the Garmin.

    I've got to be jogging, running, elliptical, Cybex, treadmill, etc. for 10-15 min, and then the Garmin starts spitting out numbers and making me feel like a hero.

    ONCE I HIT the numbers, I go into high intensity interval training (HIIT). The longer I exercise aerobically in a session, the amount of effort decreases to get the same result. It's just hitting that first peak that is the hard part.

    I'm sticking to 150 minutes a week, and I've seen great results in 2 months. I wonder when it is time to take that 150 number up.

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  24. You got your intensity minutes for moderate activity, only if you measuring an activity and hit the right HR. Unfortunately it does not give minutes for indoor rowing or outside any kind of paddling. Except if I am on racing speed.... Garmin should really work on this part....

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  25. After five HIIT and crossfit sessions plus running, no intensity minutes registered

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  26. Having issues with Intensity minutes both on erg machine (indoor rowing) and outdoor rowing (sculling). Sometimes it registers and sometimes it doesn't. Heart beat seems to be off on these activities , as well. One day 128 HR next day same course 103 HR, both for 4000 meters.

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  27. I just bought the VivoSmart HR today, and tried it out on a 2.5 mile walk. Although it counted my steps, distance, and recorded my heart rate, and seems to record stairs I've climbed at home, I was disappointed that it showed no activities and no Intensity Minutes for the walk. I walked briskly with no stops the entire time, even on a 1/4 mile uphill stretch, where my HR peaked at 107, but still nothing. I take Metoprolol for blood pressure and A-Fib, so I know my heart rate is somewhat artificially low. Resting HR 1/2 to 1 hour after a walk is usually 60-70, and 50-55 at other times. I do have the latest software update on my VivoSmart HR. I'm new to activity trackers so any ideas/tips would be appreciated.

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  28. Yes, this is what is happening to me also. Despite vigorous walking and running for over an hour; and all steps, heartbeat being recorded properly, there were no intensity minutes registered. Very frustrating and I would love to know how to fix it.

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    1. With reference to my earlier comment above, on 7/2/17, I am now able to get Intensity Minutes recorded, but they are somewhat inconsistent. I found where to set my personal "Heart Rate Zones," in the device user settings. I couldn't see anywhere what heart rate was necessary to trigger IM's for walking or running, so I had to experiment a little with the zones. It seems like you need to be somewhere around the end of Zone 2 or the beginning of Zone 3 to get any IM's. Since I take Metoprolol, I have a hard time getting my heart rate above about 85 with even vigorous walking. The default heart rates for zones 2 and 3 are 90 and 105, respectively, so I would almost never be able to reach that with my normal walking. I lowered the the first 4 zone boundaries to 45, 65, 75, and 115, and now I do get IM's recorded. The inconsistent part is that, if I go on an exercise walk within about 3 hours of taking the Metoprolol, my walking heart rate is still low enough that I may only get about 1/2 the minutes that should be recorded, but if I wait 6 or 7 hours, it will be high enough that almost the whole walk is recorded, minus the first 10 minutes of course. I hate to lower the heart rate zones much more, in case it starts recording Intensity Minutes for things that I don't really consider exercise.

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  30. I'm having better experience with intensity minutes on my Garmin 935. They are registering quickly on the bike - indoor or outdoor - after 10 minutes. Brisk walks don't always get my HR high enough up to activate, though. Sort of a penalty for those with lower resting heart rates!

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