Oura Ring Activity Tracker

Oura ring have just announced a major new release of their activity tracker so I thought it was about time I told you what I thought to their first model. At the same time I can share a discount code for the pre-order of the new release oura ring – just use TFKQAABXRMJ at the checkout.

When I first spotted that there was an activity tracker available in the form of a massive ring, I thought who the heck would want to wear that.

I probably spent at least 18 months ignoring it. A time that I studiously recorded and monitored my stats via Fitbit and woke bleary eyed to faff with a Bluetooth HR strap so I could attempt to record my mornings heart rate variability (HRV) while still relaxed and rested.

In the end it was the HRV monitoring that encouraged me to give the ouraring a second consideration and ultimately led me to grow rather fond of the chunky, ceramic zirconia ring.

Why is the Oura ring better than a Fitbit?

I don’t actually have a problem with Fitbit they are in fact the stand out winner if community motivation is your thing. You can be fairly confident that a large proportion of your friends will already have one and if you have a slightly competitive edge this may encourage you to walk more steps than you usually would which is not a bad thing.

But while the oura ring loses on peer to peer motivation it wins on:

  • Meaningful insights. Fitbit is keen to tell me that I have just circumnavigated a hitherto unknown island in the South Pacific, but the oura ring helpfully tells me that my sleep was disturbed, my resting heart rate was only achieved relatively late into my sleep cycle, my previous days high activity levels may be playing havoc with my readiness and as a result I probably ought to take it easy today.
  • Heart rate variability. See below for details.
  • Activity targets based on all activities and not just the basic step. We’ve all become obsessed by steps and the mythical 10,000 since Fitbit took over the world. While I’m sure it’s advantageous to walk more than sit I’m less convinced that a step has any more worth than a swim stroke or pedal revolution. Oura focus on all activities and provide a combined activity target and monitor, somehow converting everything into a kilometre equivalence. I don’t really know how they do this but intuitively they seem to have got it right.

  • Accurate sleep tracking. Now Fitbit have improved their sleep offering in the latest incarnation of trackers but comparative studies seem to suggest that Oura have managed to produce a tracker that more closely mirrors the gold standard sleep machines. I haven’t tested them head to head but so far the oura interpretation of my night always seems accurate.

  • Body temp. Apparently the ring can even get a reasonably accurate body temperature from the sensors on your finger. This is used in its combined readiness scores but you could also use to track your cycle and ovulation points (at least you could if you were a woman).

Oura ring and Heart rate variability

It might seem counterintuitive but a higher level of variation between heartbeats is linked with greater wellness and a readiness to train.

Your heartbeat is controlled synergistically by both your sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. HRV can determine the balance between the two systems.

In this case, balance is considered to be a good thing while a sympathetic predominance (over time) is correlated with bad things like stress and depression and coronary heart disease.

As athletes or weekend warriors we are encouraged to use our HRV trends as a gauge when determining how hard to push any specific training day.

I’ve been attempting to monitor mine for a while by applying a heart rate strap in the early morning and sitting quietly for a few minutes while an iPhone app determines my daily score.

I’ve never found this to be particularly satisfactory. I get a reading but if I repeat the exercise immediately afterwards I get a different reading and quite often it is significantly different. This lack of repeatability causes me concern and reduces my confidence no end.

When I discovered that the ouraring now takes HRV readings at 15 minute intervals and reports the average result as your daily reading I was sold. That’s a level of dedication that I could never hope to achieve with my manual morning monitoring.

The results seem consistent day by day and a recent bout of ill health (the worlds longest cold) has shown an interesting dive in my HRV.

This alongside a rising resting heart rate and poor sleep performance has led to the oura ring giving me a lower readiness score and a recommendation to take it easier than usual.

You may think that anyone suffering from the worlds longest cold ought to be sufficiently in touch with their bodies to realise it’s a good time to take it easy and I do. However, it’s good to have the gadget and my internal view of the world in alignment. Maybe next time the oura ring tells me I’m sub par I will be more likely to listen and respond.

How does the Oura ring respond to illness?

I thought the response to my recent illness was quite interesting. Although it isn’t really surprising that sleep and readiness deteriorates when we are ill, it is reassuring when your activity tracker responds appropriately to a perturbed state.

What do I love about the Oura ring

  • constantly developing. So while HRV was not an original feature of the ring but they snook it in as a major enhancement to the offering. I know they are working on spO2 (oxygen saturation) and circadian rhythm analysis looks like a possibility for the future.
  • regular HRV monitoring through the night
  • meaningful readiness score
  • activity monitoring beyond a simple step target

What’s special about the new Oura ring?

Well the big one is size. It’s been shrunk to the size of a standard manly wedding band. It keeps its old stylish finish but is less likely to catch on your clothing and is much less of a feature on your finger, which will be either a good or bad thing depending on how much attention you like to garner.

Surprisingly they’ve managed to get a more efficient battery in there so it will last longer than the current 2 days between charges.

Oura have also improved some of the sensors (temperature so far) and updated the app. Given how the company like to iterate and improve I would be surprised if there weren’t more treats to be revealed closer to launch.

If you fancy one, and who wouldn’t? You can use my 40% pre-order discount (TFKQAABXRMJ) but you need to be quick as it expires on the 12th December.