Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on Samsung Galaxy Watch, should we expect more in 2021?

Samsung Watch and heart rate variability HRV

Samsung’s ECG app got approved in South Korea during May 2020 and received FDA approval in the US the same year in September 2020. Following this, the Samsung Health Monitor app received a CE-marking in December 2020, which enabled the monitoring service to expand to 28 European countries.

Although Samsung’s ECG app does a great job in tracking your heart rate, perform an ECG reading and detect irregular heartbeats and related arrhythmia such as Afib, there is no easy way to track down your heart rate variability (HRV) using the ecosystem.

Related Reading:

The HRV metric has been growing in popularity over the past few years given its importance to not only elite athletes but also users who want to track their stress levels, their recovery scores following an intense workout or want to know if they are coming down with an infection and more. 

Other wearables such as the Fitbit, Apple Watch, Oura ring, and WHOOP make the HRV available at your fingertips via several reports. 

So, we researched how Samsung Galaxy Watch users can avail themselves of this very important metric and found that there aren’t too many options.

HRV Tracker App from BIPR

The HRV Tracker app made available from the French app maker BIPR offers an alternative to Samsung Galaxy Watch users.

The simple app allows you to schedule HRV readings on your Galaxy Watch. Since it is important that a reading is taken at least on a daily basis, you can schedule your HRV read time according to your preference. The app suggests that you take your HRV reading first thing every morning when you get up.Samsung Galaxy watch HRV tracker

The HRV Tracker app maintains the history of your daily HRV readings and provides you with some basic trend analysis.

Unlike the Apple Watch HRV monitoring, this app does not automatically track your HRV. You will not be able to see hourly trends or trends co-relating with your exercise schedule unless you manually take a HRV reading.

The developer is currently adding new features to the HRV tracker app and we hope that it evolves into a more sophisticated offering since it costs $6.50 to download the app.

Samsung Stress score is based on underlying HRV Values

If you own the Galaxy Watch 2 or Galaxy Watch 3, you can get your continuous stress scores using the Samsung Health app.

Stress management techniques work by measuring the activities/arousal of the autonomic nervous system (ANS), where high arousal is considered a sign of stress.

For example, the arousal of ANS leads to changes in the physiology that may be easily measured via changes in heart rate, skin conductance, blood pressure, respiration, brain wave patterns via electroencephalography (EEG).Samsung Galaxy watch stress and HRV

Stress measurement techniques on smartwatches such as the Galaxy watch rely on the measurement of heart-rate variability (HRV). Measurements of HRV may be based on time-domain analysis or frequency-domain analysis.

Although most of the Stress detection literature made available on Samsung Patents discusses how HRV can be used to measure stress, the company has for some reason decided to not provide explicit HRV readings to Galaxy Watch users and instead has made a proprietary “Stress Score” available.

The Galaxy Watch also uses HRV in the background to calculate your REM sleep scores.

Samsung’s Partnership with HeartMath

Samsung licensed HeartMath’s normative HRV database which contains thousands of healthy male and female subjects across an age range of approximately 5 to 80 years of age. All of the data was collected under the same conditions.

According to HeartMath, the high standard makes it an ideal representation of HRV baselines for use in stress level assessments in Samsung Health.

Unfortunately, when you download your Samsung Health data, you can see the heart rate information but not the RR intervals that are required to calculate HRV.

Alternative Setup using chest monitor and Kubios

If you are trying to get HRV readings from your Samsung Galaxy Watch, you can try out the HRV tracker app. Given that the developer is still fine-tuning the app, you may want to explore an alternative setup.

Use the Samsung Galaxy Watch to monitor your blood pressure and ECG regularly and use a chest strap monitor when you are conducting your intense workouts.

You can invest in a Polar H7 or H10 chest band and then pipe the data into Kubios which provides a free HRV analysis software and is trusted by researchers.

It’s only a matter of time before Samsung releases a method via which users will be able to directly track HRV and HRV trends on their Galaxy Watch, given that they are already capturing RR intervals and computing these values in the background, and co-relating it with HRV data from HeartMath for Stress score calculations.

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In my day job, I advise fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health&fitness-tech evolution and keep a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.

1 COMMENT

  1. This was incredibly helpful. Thanks. It is, of course, absurd that Samsung doesn’t make HRV scores directly available.

LEAVE A REPLY

Please enter your comment!
Please enter your name here

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.