When you’re in the market to buy a fitness tracker, your prime incentive for splurging is probably for all the advanced tech that helps you get the most out of your workouts. And while built-in heart rate monitors and calorie burns can be useful in helping you stay in tip-top shape, one new release caught my eye not because of its focus on mental health. Polar’s latest release—the Polar Ignite fitness watch ($230)—is completely waterproof, comes equipped with GPS perfect for tracking runs, an impressively accurate built-in heart rate monitor, and a training guide with ready-made, on-demand workouts.
While the fitness features check off plenty of boxes, that’s not what impressed me the most. What makes this watch stand out is its goal to help users find a more balanced, healthy life beyond working out, and that’s why features that focus on recovery and mental well-being are just as easy to access as your standard fitness tracker must-haves.
Beyond the focus on what you do while you’re awake, Polar thinks about recovery with Nightly Recharge, which promises to measure two things: how well you sleep and how well your autonomic nervous system calms down as you sleep. Based on your measurements, you get tips the following day, such as whether your body is ready for a hard workout or you should take it easy. The Sleep Plus Stages give you a full breakdown of your time asleep. You get estimates for how long you spent in each sleep stage and tips on how to improve the quality of your sleep (as well as find out what may have caused a lack of shut-eye in the first place). Sleep experts are split on the efficacy of sleep trackers, but some point to a few ways that tracking your sleep might be helpful. “Maybe you sleep at your partner’s house on the weekends and you think that might be affecting your sleep. You can use sleep data to tell you if you actually are, in fact, sleeping less at their house than your own,” sleep specialist and author of The Sleep Solution Chris Winter, MD, previously told Well+Good. “Or maybe you drink a lot on Friday and Saturday nights and you want to see if that is affecting your sleep. You can check your data to see.” The info, he says, might lead to lifestyle shifts that then, in turn, lead to better sleep.
By far my favorite part of the Polar Ignite is that it’s basically like having a meditation instructor on my wrist.
By far my favorite part of the Polar Ignite is that it’s basically like having a meditation instructor on my wrist. At any point during the day, you can do a meditation guided by the device’s Serene feature, which takes you through deep breathing exercises. Whether I’m closing my eyes and zoning out to the calming vibrations on my wrist as I breathe in and out, I always feel completely relaxed when the timer runs out.
Before starting your session, you can adjust the duration of inhaling and exhaling so you’re able to comfortably follow along during your breathing session. The goal is to get down to six breaths per minute, which has been shown to be the best breathing rate to combat stress. (It’s a fraction of the 12 to 20 breaths per minute you take normally throughout the day.) You’re also able to choose how long you want to do the exercise for. Some days, all I need is a few minutes. But during especially stressful times, having the option to go longer—up to 20 minutes—is really beneficial.
If you watch the device’s animation as you’re breathing—which has bubbles that get smaller and larger with your breaths—you’ll notice it changes colors throughout the session. That’s because there are three “serenity zones”—amethyst, sapphire, and diamond—you’re in while you’re breathing that tell you how well your heart rate and breaths are in sync. If you reach diamond, you’ve sustained the targeted six breaths per minute or slower. (I’m still working on it.) Afterward, you can see how long you spent in each zone with the goal of spending the most time in the diamond zone.
Taking a moment to pause has always been hard for me, but having this feature on hand—literally!—means I can take a mental break anytime, anywhere. Since I’m not always a fan of voice-guided meditations, simply being able to shut my eyes and focus on my breath has been a win—and I’ve felt so much calmer during the day because of it. Now instead of just tracking my steps, you better believe I’ll be tracking my breaths, too.
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