Heart Rate Tracking Can Keep You Aware of Stress Levels
People who keep track of their heart rate during the day are more aware of how their bodies respond to stress and therefore are better able to manage it, according to research at Eindhoven University of Technology in the Netherlands.
To conduct their study, the team evaluated 66 men and women between the ages of 18 to 67. The participants were asked to complete 20 one-minute tasks on a computer. Half of the tasks were designed to be stressful, and the other half were relaxing, such as listening to jazz music or reliving a happy memory. As they did each task and rated how stressed they felt when it was done, some people saw digital measures of their heart rate flash on the screen. Another group did not.
The results showed that the people who saw the live readouts of their heart rate tended to rate their stress levels based on the data more than their perceived internal levels of stress, which could either mean people are not in touch with their bodies, or the opposite. For example, during the stressful tasks, the people who were given the heart rate data rated their stress as higher than those not given the heart rate data. And during the relaxing tasks, the people given the heart rate data tended to rate their stress levels as lower than those not given the data.
It also turns out that personality traits may play a role in how much a person gets out of health tracking: The information can help some people feel more relaxed, while it might make others feel more stressed, the researchers found. The difference may lie in people's levels of neuroticism, which is the tendency to have a negative emotional state.
The next step for the team is to find how self-tracking systems can be designed to support body awareness in a positive way for all personality types without creating more anxiety and stress around the results.