I’ve been wearing this Firstbeat Bodyguard monitor now for over 72 hours. The reason? I’m trialling the latest in lifestyle technology monitoring to get in an in-depth analysis on my wellbeing and health.
Firstbeat is the step up from all the fitness bands and heart rate monitors that are currently on the market. Unlike the other wearable tech that you wear constantly, First Beat gives you a detailed snapshot into 3 days of your life, tracking activity, stress levels and sleep quality, monitoring each heart beat and heart rate variability. By providing this link between lifestyle and wellbeing, I should have a better idea of what relaxes me, whether I’m active enough, what streses me out and whether I’m getting enough recovery sleep.
For me personally, as someone who feels like they’re constantly operating at a high level of stress and who often has trouble sleeping, if I can link activities to an increase in stress then that’s invaluable information for me. I’m currently battling with what looks like contact dermatitis or eczema, which flares up into painful itchiness and cracked skin on my face and is only alleviated by powerful steroids. Steroids aren’t a long-term option for me yet every time I finish my 3 week course, the eczema comes straight back again. Dermatologists and doctors believe it’s aggravated by stress (they have no idea what causes it) so if I can find that link, I feel like I’ve taken a huge step towards healing my body.
The device attaches to electrodes – one, with the device, sticks just by your right collarbone and the other sits by your left ribs. They are connected with a piece of wire. It’s not uncomfortable to wear and within minutes you forget it’s even there. I did get some funny looks during a yoga session – and I had to explain that it wasn’t a pacemaker (some people can get paranoid about medical devices I’ve discovered so some reassurance that I’m not going to suddenly drop down dead helps). You change the electrodes up to 3 times a day, depending on how many times you shower / bath, get sweaty or the sensitivity of your skin. Even though I’ve supposedly got sensitive skin, there wasn’t any issue with the electrodes. There’s also little chance of the device coming unstuck – it remained firmly in place even throughout a particularly sweat-filled 2.5 hour yoga session.
I never realized that there’s a certain period in your sleep (identified by Firstbeat through certain Heart Rate Variability levels) where your body actively recovers. It’s only been in the past year that I’ve understood how necessary quality as well as quantity of sleep is (the boyfriend insists on at least 7 hours, whereas I have spent the last 10 years operating on around 5 or 6). With a mum who has dementia, I’m terrified of anything that could trigger an early onset so getting quality sleep is something I strive for, even if it doesn’t always happen. I’d be interested to see if I’m also getting enough breaks in my week where I take time out and relax. I suspect not…
As part of the assessment, you’re also required to fill in an online diary, recording different activities, including when you eat, times of medication, sleep, travel time, meetings, relaxation etc. This in itself is an eye-opener – where’s the time for me?
What I’m hoping for
Anything that can match my daily activities with triggers that stress me out will greatly help me to be able to make small changes to my lifestyle that should have big benefits. And unlike most people, my days are always different – I don’t have a set place for work as I often care for my mum during the week and sometimes at weekends which is stressful in itself and I’ve got to try and fit freelance work in too. As a result, I don’t have any routine or much natural opportunity to seek refuge. I have to make sure that I schedule exercise into my life such as yoga sessions or gym classes, and it’s often done on the fly. I also did a yoga session (albeit the toughest one I’ve ever done) and had acupuncture whilst wearing the Firstbeat so it will be interesting to see if there’s a significant change in readings during that.
When will results arrive?
I’ve sent back the Firstbeat Bodyguard so I expect I’ll be contacted in a week or so to go through my results, either in person or on the phone. Watch this space!