Whoop Data: Understanding What They Mean by Mehdi Yacoubi

Whoop Data: Understanding What They Mean
Posted on
March 9, 2022

There are many fitness trackers currently on the market. When it comes to monitoring your overall health and performance, Whoop has become one of the most popular wearables in recent times. 

Whoop provides a lot of in-depth information that can help you optimize your health and fitness. To make the most out of it, you need to understand the metrics contained in Whoop data, which are similar to those found in other wearables. 

This article will help you understand the metrics found on Whoop as well as how Whoop data (or similar data from other wearables) can help you optimize your health.

What Is Whoop?

Whoop is a health and fitness tracker that provides a great deal of information about your wellbeing. It tracks everything from your workouts to your sleep. 

The device can be worn around the wrist 24/7. Data from the bluetooth-enabled device is fed in real time into the Whoop app, which you can access on your phone or via your desktop. 

In addition to real-time tracking, Whoop provides you with monthly performance assessments. With this personalized health data and analytics about your body, you can optimize your training, sleep, and recovery to achieve the best performance possible.

To understand what Whoop is all about, let’s look at some of the metrics it measures to provide insights about your health.

Popular Metrics You’ll Encounter on Whoop

Whoop data on a mobile phone and a smart watch

To provide you with the data you need to improve your health, Whoop measures some metrics that reflect your body’s physiological status. Understanding what these metrics indicate is vital if you want to make sense of Whoop data.

As of now, studies looking into the accuracy of wearables like Whoop in measuring important health metrics are inconclusive. More research is underway to improve their accuracy and effectiveness.

Here are some of the most important metrics Whoop keeps track of.

1. Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats every minute when you are completely relaxed. The normal range for a resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. 

Your resting heart rate is affected by age, physical activity level, sleep, body weight, emotional status, and several diseases. Keeping track of your resting heart rate can help you monitor your fitness, recovery, and overall health.

A lower resting heart rate (but within the normal range) is a marker of good cardiovascular health. It shows that your body is well-suited to handle stressors. It’s also an indicator of your fitness level.

Whoop measures resting heart rate through a process called photoplethysmography. This process involves shining light into the underlying vessels and using optical sensors to detect how light is scattered.

2. Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) refers to the variation in the time between successive heartbeats. While your resting heart rate remains constant for the most part, the amount of time between successive heartbeats varies slightly. 

HRV is a popular metric for optimizing health and improving athletic performance. A higher HRV is associated with better fitness and overall health. A lower HRV can indicate burnout, fatigue, stress, disease, or poor health.

Optical sensors detect the slightest variations in heart rate and patterns, and calculate the HRV using various formulas. Whoop measures HRV using a dynamic average throughout your sleep. Once you know your baseline, you can use it to monitor the trends and correct any factors that may cause abnormalities.

3. Respiratory Rate

The respiratory rate refers to the number of breaths you take per minute. The normal respiratory rate is between 12 and 20 breaths per minute.

Your respiratory rate is affected by your cardiovascular fitness. Generally, it increases when your resting heart rate increases, and decreases when your resting heart rate decreases. The respiratory rate usually fluctuates during the day depending on your level of activity. 

Whoop uses the PPG technique to detect changes in peripheral blood flow, which is influenced by changes in intrathoracic pressure as you breathe in or out.

4. Blood Oxygen Levels

The new Whoop 4.0 includes a pulse oximeter, which measures your blood oxygen saturation levels. Oxygen saturation levels reflect how well your red blood cells are carrying oxygen. This helps you know how well your lungs, heart, and circulatory system work. Normal oxygen saturation falls between 95% and 100%.

Whoop measures blood oxygen levels by shining red and infrared light into the blood and analyzing the color change.

Making Sense of Whoop Data: Strain, Recovery, and Sleep

Elderly woman looking at her Whoop data

The three sets of data you’ll come across are strain, recovery, and sleep. Whoop specializes in tracking this data for many reasons.

Let’s take a look at what each of them means and why they might be interesting to explore.

1. Strain

Strain is a metric that gives an overview of your cardiovascular load. Simply put, strain represents the exertion your training has on your cardiovascular system based on your heart rate. 

Whoop’s strain score ranges between 0 and 21. This is further divided into four categories: 

  • Light (0–9): Minimal stress is being put on the body.
  • Moderate (10–13): Moderate stress is being put on the body, which helps maintain fitness.
  • High (14–17): Increased stress and/or activity, which helps build fitness gains in your training.
  • All Out (18–21): All-out training means that there’s significant stress being exerted on the body. This category of strain is difficult to recover from.

Whoop calculates your strain by measuring the time you spend in each of the heart rate zones. Heart rate zones are the percentages of the maximum heart rate you achieve with physical activity. The intensity and type of exercise determine your heart rate zone.

Your strain score would be low if you spend time in lower heart rate zones, such as during a brisk walk. This is because, despite some level of activity, your heart rate didn’t elevate as much during the walk. Higher-intensity exercises increase your strain score because you spend time in higher heart rate zones. Also, the longer your heart rate remains elevated, the higher your strain score will be. 

Strain is highly personalized and depends on one’s fitness level. Whoop keeps track of your strain throughout the day as well as during exercise. Whoop Strain Coach then lets you know how you can better improve your health and fitness using this data.

2. Recovery

Recovery reflects your body’s preparedness to handle the strain. It denotes a return to baseline functionality after stressors, such as exercise, illness, or sleep deprivation.

High recovery means your body is ready to take on strain while low recovery puts you at the risk of overtraining and injury. Whoop tracks your daily recovery during sleep, establishes your baseline, and gives you the insights you need to optimize your training and lifestyle. 

Whoop recovery data is personalized for each person. Factors that affect your recovery are:

  • Overall health
  • Fitness level
  • Level of strain
  • Diet
  • Hydration
  • Stress
  • Sleep
  • Lifestyle habits, such as smoking or alcohol consumption

One of the most accurate indicators of recovery is heart rate variability. HRV usually decreases when stressors exert strain on your body. A return to baseline HRV (or higher) shows that your body has recovered from the strain and is ready to take on another challenge. Monitoring your HRV is a good way to optimize your athletic performance.

Other metrics Whoop uses to calculate your recovery score are resting heart rate, respiratory rate, and sleep performance.

3. Sleep

Sleep is an important physiological process that your body needs to repair itself, rejuvenate, and grow. 

Whoop provides in-depth sleep performance monitoring. The device tracks your sleep patterns, the time you spend asleep, sleep stages, sleep efficiency, disturbances, and sleep needs. Whoop uses this information to provide suggestions on how you can improve your sleep.

Based on your sleep performance score, Whoop’s sleep coach alerts you when you have sleep debt and makes recommendations on what steps you can take to correct it. A score of 100% indicates that you’ve achieved all the sleep your body required that night.

Sleep performance is key to understanding your recovery. Whoop data shows that the time you spend asleep, especially in the rapid eye movement (REM) stage of sleep, directly affects your performance. 

During your sleep, Whoop also records other metrics, such as your heart rate data and respiratory rate.

According to Whoop, their technology is 95% accurate in measuring your sleep performance. A study published by University of Arizona referred to Whoop as a “highly accurate” fitness tracker.

Optimize Your Health and Performance With Whoop Data

Man looking at his watch while jogging

Whoop is a fitness tracker that monitors your heart rate, training load, sleep quality, recovery time, and more. This is just a percentage of everything you might want to know and understand to optimize your health. 

At Vital, we connect the entire pie together. We let you integrate in one place all the data from different wearables that helps you understand your sleep and recovery with other wellness metrics from different apps. This gives you a broader perspective, which makes it easier to optimize your health and fitness. Sign up with Vital today.

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