Best sports watch for continuous tracking and easy export

I would like to buy a sports watch and am looking for recommendations. Some features I’d like to have are:

  • Continuous (at least minute-by-minute, preferentially second-by-second) tracking and logging of HR and HRV
  • Possibility to export ALL data for my own analysis
  • Other stuff, like sleep tracking and analysis of exercise sessions is a plus

The second point is important since some models seem to allow only the export of some of the data some of the time (e.g. from exercise sessions, etc.) and it’s difficult to find information on which models allow what.

I think this will depend on your goals and what you hope to achieve with your analysis. There are a number of wearables that attempt to track everything but severely lack in some areas. For example, the Oura Ring has a very comfortable form factor (unless you need to take it off frequently for weightlifting), but it performs poorly in sleep tracking. For HR/HRV and full data access, I think the Polar H10 chest strap is the best and most accessible, but it is more expensive than other chest straps–it costs about $90US. It’s not a sports watch, however. For gathering sleep data, Fitbit appears to be perform best when compared with other popular fitness trackers and smart watches. Rob ter Horst, AKA The Quantified Scientist (link to YouTube channel) has pretty thorough and systematic reviews of products like these.

For HR/HRV and full data access, I think the Polar H10 chest strap is the best and most accessible, but it is more expensive than other chest straps–it costs about $90US.

Do all Polar devices allow full access to continuous HR/HRV data? I found some conflicting reports on this. If yes, I think I would go with one of the Polar smart watches since they seem to be pretty good also for running and exercising.

As for the form factor, I think I’d rather use a watch/wristband than something else.

I used a Polar A370 (wrist-based device) for a while and was extremely frustrated to learn that while the device records HR data all the time (though it only logged a measurement every 3-6 minutes or so?) and lets you look at it in the app, you can only actually export what you tracked in “training sessions” (IIRC, during a session it logs measurements more frequently). At first I thought I just couldn’t figure out the export, but customer service confirmed that it is not possible.

You may have a solution by this point, but I just bought the Garmin Epix 2, and it has a sleep tracker, and a function called health snapshot, which takes a 2 minute look at your vitals, and provides feedback, including an HRV value.

I was also looking for something similar.

For continuous HR, most consumer devices would only give me data every 1-5 minutes. My solution was to start an “activity” on my watch/fitbit and keep it going 24/7. It drains the battery more quickly but provides me with data every 1-5 seconds. The devices still track sleep stages despite me being in exercise mode the entire time.

For continuous HRV (and HR), I resorted to having a few Scosche Rhythm24 devices which I alternate a few times a day once the battery runs out. It’s less annoying than a chest strap and is reasonably accurate and gets the job done.

Epix 2 seems to be pretty expensive, but do other Garmin watches have the same functionality? How about exporting the data, is it possible on Garmin devices?

Epix 2, and Fenix 7 line from Garmin measure HRV, Oura ring as well. I wrote a comprehensive list of all the devices that measure HRV here. There are some apps on the Apple watch as well

Depends on what format you want the export in, Epix 2 is great, Oura ring, Whoop is really good. Whoop you can get heart rate every 6 seconds via their unofficial API. For something that gives you higher fidelity you’ll need to build a custom app for the specific devices! Happy to talk you through it!