The what and how of Polar 24/7 activity tracking
Simply put, our bodies are designed to move. It's widely known that physical activity is a major factor in maintaining health. In addition to being physically active, it's important to avoid prolonged sitting. Yet, more and more of us are spending a tremendous amount of time sitting each day at work, in traffic or watching TV, without much movement. Sitting for long periods of time is bad for your health, even on those days when you train and gain enough daily activity. Sitting affects your blood circulation, metabolism, energy expenditure and how your body is prepared for training.
Being physically active daily helps you to maintain a healthy weight, good bone health, and healthy muscles and joints. It promotes psychological well-being, and reduces the risk of a range of diseases such as cardiovascular diseases (CVD), stroke and type 2 diabetes. Find ways to break up your sitting to avoid the negative effects it has on your health. Move throughout the day. For example, work standing up when you can or take a short five-minute walk every hour, park your car farther away from your destination, get up and move during TV commercial breaks - simply add in more movement of any kind, where possible.
Tracking your activity is a good way to find out how active you really are in your everyday life, on top of your regular training. Polar device tracks your daily activity and provides a complete picture of all daily activity, underlining the importance of every movement made throughout the day.
Polar device gives you an activity goal each day and guides you in reaching your goal. It motivates you to be active by suggesting different options to reach your goal. It helps you add active breaks to your daily routines by reminding you to get up if you've been still for too long. Polar device rewards you by giving feedback and showing the benefits of your activity. If you wear your Polar device at night, it also tracks your sleep time and quality (restful or restless).
Polar device uses an internal 3D accelerometer to record your wrist movements. It analyses the frequency, intensity and regularity of your movements together with your physical information.
Polar device tracks all your activities, everything from light chores to intense sports. It spots from your wrist movements when you're active and when you're sitting and resting. It's specifically your wrist that needs to move when you're being active, in order for your device to understand your activity. This means also that the device cannot track how heavy a load you carry, or how steep a hill you climb or what force you use when strength training.
To have your device detect activities like cycling, weight training, yoga or walking while pushing a stroller, use it with a heart rate sensor. That way you won't miss observing those activities where your wrist is not moving but you're still being very active.
Polar device gives you an activity goal each day and guides you in reaching it. Your activity goal is shown as a bar that gradually fills to show how close you are to your goal. When the bar is full, you've reached your goal.
The activity goal is based on your personal data and activity level setting, which you can find in the Daily Activity Goal settings in the Flow web service. The Daily Activity goal setting lets you choose from three activity levels (see number 1 in the image below) the one that best describes your typical day and activity. Below the selection area (see number 2 in the image below), you can see how active you need to be to reach your daily activity goal on the chosen level.
The active time you need during the day to reach your goal depends on the level you have chosen and the intensity of your activities. Meet your goal faster with more intense activities or stay active at a slightly more moderate pace throughout the day. Age and gender also affect the intensity you need to reach your activity goal. The younger you are, the more intense your activity needs to be.
If it seems that your activity goal is very easy to reach, and your current typical activity level choice is Level 1, you can change it to Level 2. This way you will get a more demanding activity goal.
You can check how you’re doing in reaching your activity goal for the day either from your Polar device, Polar Flow mobile app or from the Polar Flow web service.
Your Polar device gradually fills up an activity bar to indicate your progress towards your daily activity goal. In addition, it shows your active time, calories and steps. Polar device also gives you options for reaching your goal. It tells how long you need to be active if you choose low, medium or high intensity activities. In the device, 'up' means low intensity, 'walking' means medium intensity, and 'jogging' means high intensity. With practical guidance like ´walk for 50 minutes or jog for 20 minutes´ you can choose how to reach your goal.
You'll find more examples for low, medium and high intensity activities at the Polar Flow web service and Flow app. For more information on how your activity is shown on the device, see the user manual for your Polar device.
Check your daily activity status instantly on the go from the Flow mobile app. You can see the activity overview, check burned calories, steps and sleep time. You can also follow your weekly and monthly status in a clear, visual format. Flow app syncs and stores all your activity data to the Flow web service, where you can analyze every detail and follow your long-term progress.
- Flow app shows your activity on a big 24 hour clock. You can toggle between the detailed 24 hour clock and total active time by tapping the clock. The colors on the activity clock indicate different activity intensity levels. The darker the color, the higher the intensity. Above the clock, you can see how much time you've spent on each intensity level. Tapping the activity icons opens the activity intensity level descriptions.
- Training sessions with a heart rate sensor are marked with a sport symbol. Tap the symbol to see the details of the training session.
- Flow app gives you an inactivity alert if you’ve been inactive for almost an hour. If you don't react in the next five minutes, an inactivity stamp is saved in Polar Flow app.
- You can see your daily goal status in the status bar percentage number. If it's under 100%, tap the bar for options for reaching the goal. If you've already reached your goal, it shows your Activity Benefit.
- Below the daily goal status, you can see your calories, active time, steps, distance and sleep time, and see the number of inactivity stamps you've received.
- Enter your weight to track it over time.
You can change the view from Daily to Weekly or Monthly. In weekly and monthly view, you'll find
- A bar graph of your weekly or monthly activity data
- Time spent at different activity intensity levels
- Average of daily goal completion
- Activity benefit
- Calories burned, steps taken and total active time
- Amount of inactivity stamps
- A line graph of your weight for a week or month
Flow web service stores all your activity so that you can easily analyze your daily and long-term physical activity. Activity information is shown in Diary after you sync your device. You can choose to see your activity in day, week or month view, along with a daily, weekly or monthly Activity summary.
Go to Diary to view your activity and select the period; DAY, WEEK or MONTH (1).
You can open the day view by clicking a day in the month view. The month view summarizes each week (see number 2 in image above). You can open the week view by clicking the week's summary. In the same way, the week view summarizes each day, and you can open the day view by clicking the day's summary.
Scroll down in the Diary view to see a detailed summary of your activity.
- Track your cumulative active time, steps, distance, calories and sleep time, and see the amount of inactivity stamps you've received.
- See how much time you've spent on each activity intensity level during the period. In daily view, you'll see your activity on the detailed 24 hour clock or your total active time (click the arrow to change the view).
- See the average daily goal completion for a week or month. In daily view, you'll see how far you've come in reaching your daily activity goal, and options for reaching your goal.
- Click the arrow to view the activity benefit of daily, weekly and monthly activity. To get feedback on your activity, you need to wear your device for a certain time:
- Daily feedback: more than 10 hours, not including sleep or rest.
- Weekly feedback: more than 10 hours a day on at least 5 days, not including sleep or rest.
- Monthly feedback: more than 10 hours a day on at least 21 days, not including sleep or rest.
Activity Summary in a week or month view:
Activity Summary in a day view:
From the Activity timeline view in Polar Flow web service you can easily see all of your daily activity and health benefits with just one glimpse. The visual activity timeline shows when you've been active during your day, when you've been sitting too much, what time you went to bed and woke up, and of course all those important training sessions you’ve been sweating out.
To see how your day looks like, sync your device, go to your Flow diary and click on the Activity tab.
- The summary above the timeline shows the basic data of your 24 hour day and how well you’ve hit your daily activity goal. The distance calculation shown in the summary is based on the steps you’ve taken. Distance readings measured with GPS or with an accelerometer from your wrist when recording a training session are not included.
- Your activity curve draws as a blue and white line on the timeline. The more the curve is on the blue levels, the more active you've been.
- If you’re using a Polar device with the Continuous Heart Rate feature, your Continuous Heart Rate curve draws as a purple line on the timeline. At the bottom of the timeline, you can see purple symbols for the day’s lowest and highest heart rate readings and for the lowest heart rate reading during sleep. The purple bars indicate the times when the Continuous Heart Rate feature detected high activity and recorded your heart rate continuously.
- See the health and activity benefits from your daily activities.
- Compare your activity, steps, burned calories and night’s sleep to the previous few days.
- See how much time you've spent on each activity intensity level during the period.
Hover your mouse over the timeline to see more details. Click the buttons (Trainings, Sleep, Inactivity and Continuous heart rate) above the chart to toggle between showing and not showing your data on the chart.
Active time includes the time you spend on your feet and on the move. In other words, low, medium and high intensity activities are active time. To get more active time, avoid sitting or break it up regularly with short walks.
Polar device displays your total calorie consumption which includes basic metabolism, activity based calories and heart rate based calories. If you train with a compatible heart rate sensor, the device uses the activity based calories at resting, sedentary and low intensities, and the heart rate based calories at moderate and high intensities.
In order to calculate activity based calories, Polar device categorizes the frequency, intensity and regularity of your wrist movement, and then transforms the data into activity intensity, i.e. MET* values. Using your physical details filled in the Polar Flow web service (age, sex, height and weight), the Polar device transforms the MET values to kcal/min.
* MET = Measurement of energy expenditure expressed as multiples of the resting metabolic rate.
Polar device has a 3D digital acceleration sensor to measure your wrist movement. The frequency, intensity and regularity of your wrist movements are registered and used to estimate the number of steps. Polar device reads your wrist movement and updates steps reading once a minute. It registers steps even if you’re e.g. swimming and not taking any actual steps.
Polar device is designed to be worn in your non-dominant wrist. If you wear it on your dominant hand, you’ll get a bigger steps reading because in everyday chores your dominant hand will naturally do many more small moves compared to your non-dominant hand.
The distance calculation is based on the steps you have taken. For the distance calculation Polar device has to know how long your steps are. Polar has developed and patented a method for estimating stride length, which takes into account your pace. The method utilizes your height and stride pace in the calculation. You have given your height when starting to use your Polar Device, and the stride pace can be tracked from your wrist movements. When the number of the steps you have taken and your stride length are known, the distance can be calculated accurately.
The distance can be calculated accurately for sports in which the pace is steady, like walking or running. In sports that require equipment, like skating, skiing and cycling, or in sports in which the pace is not steady, the distance will be underestimated.
Polar device categorizes the intensity level of your activity according to the frequency, intensity and regularity of wrist movement, and then transforms the data into activity intensity, i.e. MET* values. Your height is used in calculating the MET values.
Polar device tracks your activity on five intensity levels:
- Resting (sleep and rest, lying down)
- Sitting (sitting or other passive behaviour)
- Low (standing work, light household chores)
- Medium (walking and other moderate activities)
- High (jogging, running and other intense activities)
For example, brisk wrist movement can be categorized as running (high intensity). When the wrist movement is only occasional, it can be categorized as sitting.
Polar device measures the different activity zones (low, medium, high) so that the higher the intensity, the faster your goal is reached. It tells how long you need to be active if you choose low, medium or high intensity activities. In the device, 'up' means low intensity, 'walking' means medium intensity, and 'jogging' means high intensity.
Polar Flow mobile app and Flow web service show how much time you've spent on each activity intensity level, and also give you more examples for low, medium and high intensity activities.
* MET = Measurement of energy expenditure expressed as multiples of the resting metabolic rate.
Activity benefit gives you feedback on the health benefits being active has given you, and also what kind of unwanted effects sitting for too long has caused for your health. The feedback is based on international guidelines and research on the health effects of physical activity and sitting behavior. The core idea is: the more active you are, the more benefits you get!
Both Flow app and Flow web service show the activity benefit of your daily activity. You can view the activity benefit on daily, weekly and monthly basis. In the Flow web service you can also view the detailed information on health benefits.
Sitting for long periods of time is not good for your health – even on those days when you train and gain enough daily activity. Sitting affects your blood circulation, metabolism, energy expenditure and how your body is prepared for training. Your Polar device spots if you’re being inactive for too long during your day. To help you stay active and benefit your health, it alerts you to move.
Inactivity alert reminds you to get up after 55 minutes of sitting and helps you add the active breaks to your daily routines. The Flow app gives the same notification if it has a Bluetooth connection to your device. Stand up and find your own way to be active; take a short walk, stretch, or do some other light activity to benefit your health. If you're not active in the next five minutes you'll get an inactivity stamp. Inactivity stamps are shown in Flow app and web service where you can follow your daily amount of inactivity stamps.
Besides the many details you get about your physical activity and all the health benefits that come with it, it's also good to see the inactive periods and when you've been still for too long. This way you can check back on your daily routine and make changes toward a more active life.
Knowing the amount of restful and restless sleep gives you a look into how you sleep at night and if it’s affected by any changes in your daily life. This may help you in finding ways to improve your sleep and feel well rested during the day. Polar device will track your sleep time and quality (restful or restless), if you wear it at night. There is no sleep mode in your device. It detects automatically from your wrist movements that you're sleeping.
Your sleep time is the longest continuous rest time that takes place within 24 hours starting from 18:00/6pm to next day’s 18:00/6pm. Breaks shorter than one hour in your sleep don't stop sleep tracking, but they are not taken into account in the sleep time. Breaks longer than one hour stop sleep time tracking.
The periods when you sleep peacefully and don’t move a lot are calculated as restful sleep. The periods when you move and change your position are calculated as restless sleep. Instead of simply summing up all the immobile periods, the algorithm gives more weight to long than short immobile periods. The percentage of restful sleep compares the time you slept restfully with the total sleeping time.
Sleep time, and its quality (restful or restless) is shown at the Flow web service and Flow app after the device is synced.
Sleep information in Flow app:
Sleep information at Flow web service:
When interpreting the restful sleep percentage, take your total sleep time into consideration. It's possible to have the same percentage of restful sleep for nights with 4 hours and 7 hours sleep. Follow your restful sleep percentage in the long term to find out what is your regular level. There may be periods or single nights when you sleep more restlessly and the percentage is below your regular level. Then it would be good to pay attention to your sleep hygiene, which includes things like your sleeping environment and evening routines. A heavy meal before sleep, a busy and stressful day, the temperature and darkness of the sleeping environment may all affect the restful sleep percentage.
Avoid comparing your figures with your friend’s. We all are individuals and our sleeping habits and sleeping environments vary.
If you have a Polar device that supports the new Polar Sleep Plus feature you can read more detailed information on the feature from this document.