Garmin's latest tracker takes aim at stress, "fitness age"

By Jonah Comstock
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Wearables are at something of a crossroads right now. While companies might have previously differentiated new generations of wearables with new sensors and sleeker designs, now consumers are looking for something more: wearables that don’t just track their life, but help them improve it.

Garmin’s newest device, the vívosmart 3 activity tracker announced today, boasts a number of new features toward that end.

“Health conscious customers are becoming more interested in the meaning behind their activity stats,” Dan Bartel, Garmin vice president of worldwide sales, said in a statement. “As in, I like seeing the data, but how does it correlate to my overall wellbeing? With its new fitness and wellness monitoring tools that tell you things like fitness age and stress level, the vívosmart 3 is able to provide users with those answers, and that is a game changer for the activity tracker industry.”

The three new things that vívofit 3 tracks are VO2 max, fitness age, and stress. VO2 Max and fitness age are related metrics that show users whether their fitness level overall is poor or superior, and what age correlates to their fitness. These are levels that users can change by working out.

Stress (which wearables expert Dan Ledger believes is one of the biggest market opportunities in the space) is calculated via heart rate variability. And here the actionability piece comes in: a breathing exercise right on the device is accessible if a user’s stress level is too high. And a longterm stress timeline, available in the Garmin connect app, helps users put their stress levels with the rest of their lives. 

Of course, the $139.99 device also tracks all the things fitness tracker users expect: steps, heart rate, floors climbed, calories, distance and sleep. It also tracks activity intensity, and can be set up to forward push notifications from certain smartphones. It’s water-resistant with a 5-day battery life.