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How Does Garmin Measure Stress? Let’s Find Out


I’d never thought of such a thing as using a smartwatch to measure my response to the challenges of life until I learned about stress management on Garmin. And to be honest, it’s an incredible tool built to work based on a validated automatic nervous system.

But how does Garmin measure stress? 

Garmin measures stress based on your heart rate variability. It looks at the change in time between consecutive heartbeats to determine how your body responds to different situations. With the help of Firstbeat Analytics, Garmin watches can tell if you’re relaxed or stressed.

Keep in mind that Garmin doesn’t give you stress data when you’re actively exercising. To give you reliable results, the watch only uses the heart rate variability monitored when you’re inactive.

What is Stress Level on Garmin?

Stress level on Garmin is a metric that lets you determine your present level of stress depending on your heart rate variability (HVR).

The watch uses your heart rate to check the intervals between each of your heartbeats. And an increase in heart rate variability between heartbeats equals low stress levels while a reduction is an indication of high stress levels.  

Some Garmin watches will notify you when your stress levels are high, after which you have to do some breathing exercises to keep the level under control.

These watches even support continuous stress tracking, so you can monitor your levels over time.

Note that Garmin doesn’t give you heart rate variability data when you pause activities, and that means your stress level on the watch may not be as accurate.

How Exactly Does Garmin Measure Stress?

Garmin measures stress by looking at the fluctuation in time between your heartbeats.

Take Vivoactive 3, for example.

It can easily detect your heart rate and give you a heart rate variability score by monitoring the time between each heartbeat.

Then, with the help of Firstbeat Analytics and your profile information, the watch coverts your heart rate variability readings into stress score, which is any number between 0 and 100.

Following is a table breaking down the Garmin stress score depending on the HRV reading:

 Stress LevelStress Score
1.Resting0 to 15
2.Low16 to 50
3.Average51 to 75
4.High76 to 100

Why Does Garmin Measure Stress?

Garmin monitors your stress levels and assigns you a score for two reasons.

First, the data allows you to point out stressful period throughout your day.

For what it’s worth, this information can help you determine your triggers, so you can create a personalized self-help plan to manage stressful situations and challenges.

Second, the stress-tracking feature can help you to determine when your body is ready to train, not ready to train, and when to take a break to generate and compensate for the lost energy.

If your score is high, you’ll feel too lazy to exercise. On the other hand, a lower score indicates that your body will have a positive response to low, moderate, and intense workouts.

How Accurate is Garmin Stress Level?

We tend to look for accuracy when monitoring health and fitness metrics. However, smartwatch and fitness tracker brands can’t guarantee the currency of their scores by any means.

Garmin is no different.

While Garmin watches can track your stress level and give you a score based on your heart rate variability, don’t expect the results to be 100% accurate.

What you get are estimates.

Understandably so, even the estimates can be quite useful, as they give you an idea of how stressed your body is and whether you should workout or prioritize on rest and recovery.

Apparently, it’s possible to get reasonably reliable estimate of your stress levels on Garmin. You do that by lowering light to minimize distraction, taking the stress test from the same location, and maintaining a consistent breathing pattern.

How to Check Your Stress Score on Garmin

You can check the summary of your score from the stress widget added to your Garmin watch’s screen.

However, you should use the Garmin Connect app or Garmin website dashboard if you wish to take a detailed look at your score information.

To use the Garmin Connect app:

  • Launch the Garmin Connect app on your iPhone or Android. 
  • Choose Menu.
  • Tap the “three-line” icon on the top left for Android or “More” on the bottom left for iOS.
  • Select Health Stats.
  • Choose Stress.

You will see a breakdown of your daily average overtime, stress score, as well as daily timeline.

To use the Garmin website dashboard:

  • Sign in to your Garmin account on Chrome, Safari, or whatever web browser you prefer.
  • Select Report from the left navigation menu.
  • Go to Health & Fitness.
  • Click Stress Level.

You can view your average stress levels over time. Your data range options are a week, a month, half-yearly, and yearly.

It’s important to note that live or real-time stress levels are available only on the Garmin watch.

Why is My Garmin Not Tracking Stress?

I understand that nothing is as discouraging as Garmin not measuring stress when you need it to.

But the most important thing here is to understand why the watch isn’t tracking your stress and assigning you a score, as well as what you can do to fix it.

See the table below:

 Probable CauseBest Possible Fix
1.The wrist-based heart rate monitor is off.Turn on the optical heart rate monitor on your Garmin watch.
2.You’re not wearing the Garmin watch properly on your wrist.Ensure your Garmin watch makes contact with your skin for the heart rate sensor to work properly.
3.The Garmin watch froze.Restart the watch.

Here’s what you need to do to get your Garmin watch tracking your stress level and show the information on the watch’s widget and in the companion app:

1. Activate the Optical Heart Rate Sensor

Garmin watches rely on heart rate data to determine your heart rate variability. So if the heart rate sensor is off, the smartwatch cannot determine whether you’re stressed or otherwise.

Ensure you activate the heart rate monitor to get the watch to give you a stress score.

To do this:

  • Go to Settings on your Garmin watch.
  • Scroll to Sensors and Accessories.
  • Select to open Heart Rate Settings.
  • Choose Wrist HR and turn it on if it’s off.

And that’s it.

2. Wear Your Garmin Watch Properly

Activating the optical heart rate sensor is half the problem solved. Next, you need to ensure the watch makes contact with your skin.

Here’s why:

Garmin watches have optical sensors located at the back. These sensors must be in constant contact with your skin to detect your heartbeat intervals.

If you wear the watch loosely, the watch may read inaccurate heart rate data or not monitor your heartbeats at all.

To fix this, simply adjust the band so that the watch doesn’t move.

3. Restart the Watch

It’s somewhat normal for a Garmin watch to freeze or seem locked because of a jammed operating system.

The problem with this is the watch becomes less useful. You may notice stress data missing or see inaccurate score on the watch and in the companion app.

But fixing a frozen Garmin watch is a no brainer. You just need to do a simple restart and your watch should give you accurate data the next time you need to measure stress or any other health and fitness metric.

To restart your Garmin watch:

  • Press and hold the power buttons for approximately 15 seconds to turn off the watch.
  • Release the button.
  • Wait for at least 30 to 60 seconds for the memory to clear.
  • Press and hold down the power button again to turn on the watch.

Frequently Asked Questions

1. What is a Good Stress Level on Garmin? 

A good stress level on Garmin is the value that’s as low as possible. If you can get rest and low score, go for it.

Rest means you have a stress level of 0 to15, but that can only last for so long because you must keep your body actively engaged to activities.

It’s best to aim for a score between 25 and 50. Any number between these two values indicate that you’re facing only a few challenges as you go about your daily activities.

And remember, knowing your stress levels with the help of a Garmin watch is important because it helps you to point out challenging periods throughout the day.

2. Why is My Garmin Stress Level High?

Your stress level on Garmin tends to high when you’re sleeping because that’s when your heart rate variability is at its lowest. Other instances when your stress level can be high is if you’re sick, poorly rested or under the influence of alcohol.

Remember, your stress score will always be high if your heart rate variability is low.

3. What is the Average Stress Level on Garmin?

Whereas the highest stress score on Garmin ranges from 76 to 100, the average (also referred to as moderate or normal) levels range from 51 to 75.

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Michael Jonathan

Michael Jonathan is the brainchild of Apelo Studio. He loves talking about wearable devices, and he is passionate about helping you push your wearable device to its limits. His creativity and ability to tear electric components apart and put them back together makes him an incredible troubleshooter and blogger.

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