Exercise and Fitness

Fitness Tracking Review: VO2max and the Suunto 3 Fitness

Herman BonnerCommunications Specialist, Firstbeat

The Suunto 3 Fitness is a fitness tracker that lives up to its name. With the ability to automatically detect your cardiorespiratory fitness level, measurable as VO2max, its one of a growing number of devices that can actually track your fitness.

In this article, we’ll take a quick look at VO2max, what it is, what it means, and even look under the hood to reveal how the Firstbeat analytics engine helps your Suunto 3 Fitness deliver this valuable insight. To wrap things up, will offer a few tips to boost the reliability of your fitness data.

VO2max Your Key to Fitness Tracking

In a nutshell, your VO2max is your cardiorespiratory fitness level. It is a single, easily understood number that reveals how fit you are. VO2max is also frequently described as your aerobic performance capacity.

The relationship between VO2max and health is so significant that in 2016 the American Heart Association recommended it be regularly checked and used as a clinical vital sign.

One of the big reasons that VO2max offers such powerful insight is because it captures how different vital systems within your body work together. Heart, lungs, circulatory system, and muscle tissue working together to keep you going.

The oxygen your muscles need to efficiently transform nutrients into energy enters your body through your lungs, where it is infused with your blood supply. Your beating heart pumps oxygenated blood around your body to the muscles where it is used to make energy aerobically.

The higher your VO2max, the fitter you are. The lower your VO2max, the less fit you are.

A low score isn’t the end of the world, it just means could benefit from a more active lifestyle and need to get moving. And no need to fret, lower fitness levels are the easiest to improve.

With the right types of regular physical activity, practically anyone can improve their VO2max which will help you feel better, perform better, manage stress better, and leads to better health outcomes.

Tracking and Improving your VO2max

Regular physical activity performed with the right intensities holds the key to improving your VO2max over time. Because your Suunto 3 Fitness automatically detects your VO2max during runs and brisk walks, you can see changes in your fitness level when they happen.

At a minimum, checking in on your VO2max will reveal if you are fit enough to achieve health benefits. When you see room for improvement, you know it’s time to act.

Watching your workouts translate into an upward trend in your VO2max is a rewarding and motivating experience. It’s proof that your work is paying off and you’re heading in the right direction.

What if you’re a high-performance junky, eager to push your limits?

The ability to see and manage your VO2max takes on additional meaning and value, especially for endurance pursuits like running and cycling. Improving your body’s ability to utilize oxygen is a surefire way to enhance endurance performance.

Always a Next Step

Regardless of whether health or performance motivate your decision to increase your VO2max, you can always find the next step forward with the help of the adaptive training programs onboard your Suunto 3 Fitness.

Recommended workouts are personally tailored to help improve your fitness, changing based on your needs, and taking your current fitness and activity history into account.

Using your VO2max to personalize workout recommendations ensures that the guidance you get from your Suunto 3 Fitness is always right for you – regardless of your current level.

Under the Hood

So how does it work?

Can your watch really know how fit you are? Your Suunto 3 Fitness detects your fitness level during runs and brisk walks using a combination of speed and heartbeat data. So, to get and update your VO2max, you just need to make sure those two elements are present.

The Firstbeat analytics engine brings speed and heart rate together in part of a complex, multi-layered analysis that looks at how much work you are doing (speed) in light of how hard your body is working (heartbeat data) to produce that work.

While that part of the analysis is relatively straightforward, the reliability of your VO2max comes from the ability of the analytics engine to intelligently identify and use only the most meaningful and representative parts of the data.

Stopping for traffic, tying your shoe, slowed by rough terrain, going up and down hills? What about sudden changes in speed like during HIIT runs or cardiovascular drift towards the end of long run?

These, and many other events, are automatically recognized and taken into account. This means you can simply go out and do what you do with confidence. The intelligence built into your watch will take care of the rest.

3 Tips for Better Accuracy

The more runs and walks you record with your Suunto 3 Fitness, the more reliable your VO2max fitness level becomes. This is because the Firstbeat analytics engine is designed to learn about you as you go.

If you give your Suunto 3 Fitness to someone else, be sure to factory reset the device to clear what your device knows about you from the analytics engine.

Here are three additional things you can do to help your Suunto 3 Fitness deliver accurate insight into your personal fitness.

  1. Check your background data. Make sure the height, weight, sex, and age information stored on your device is correct and kept up to date.
  2. Wear the device properly. The quality of your heartbeat data impacts the reliability of your feedback, so make sure to follow the best practices for your device.
  3. Identify your maximum heart rate. Your device provides an initial estimate of your maximum heart rate based on your age but updating this value to your real maximum heart rate will improve the accuracy of your calculations.
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Herman Bonner

Communications Specialist, Firstbeat

Herman is a former U.S. World Cup fencer, coach and high-performance manager. Keen to explore how people make sense of the world around them, Herman currently thrives at the bustling intersection of technology and everyday life. His educational interests include mechanical engineering, economics, ethnomethodology, and sports management with a focus on marketing and communications.

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