Garmin: Intensity Minutes

The Garmin Vivosmart HR+ (VS HR+) is the perfect fitness watch because it measures GPS, Heart Rate, steps, Intensity Minutes, floors, and pace. The purpose of this post is to explain workarounds for things that the Vivosmart HR+ does less than perfectly.

Accruing Intensity Minutes

  • Problem: The Garmin VS HR+ may not give you as much credit as you desire for your Intensity Minutes.
  • Solution: Warm up for a few minutes. When warm, elevate your heart rate to Zone 1 or above. Here is how to accrue your maximum Intensity Minutes:
  • Record an exercise. This could be a walk, run, cardio, or other. Begin with a few minutes of warm-up, such as a relatively slow walk. You will not get any Intensity Minutes for a warm up if your Zone is 0.
  • Push yourself into Zone 1 or above. You could do this with a jog, sprint, or intervals. Once in Zone 1 or higher, return to your regular pace (say a 3.8 MPH walk). Whenever your zone drops to 0, restart your jog, sprint, or intervals.
  • You earn one Intensity Minute in ~Zone 1.0 to ~Zone 2.7 per minute of recorded moderate exercise. You earn two Intensity Minutes in ~Zone 2 .7 to Zone 5.0 per minute of recorded vigorous exercise. These zones are approximate because we do not know your Garmin Zones. You can compute your maximum heart rate as Max HR = 220-age = Zone 5.0. Your Zone 4.0 is 90% of your Max HR, Zone 3 is 80%, Zone 2 is 70%, and Zone 1 is 60%. However, the Garmin algorithm is to compute your zones based on your resting heart rate rather than on your Max HR. We do not know the algorithm. So we estimate your Garmin Zones based on your age’s Zones.
  • You can earn IM only for a recorded walk, run, cardio, and other exercises. You must press the Start button to record your exercise. We are not sure whether you need to press the Stop and Save buttons to retain your earned IM, but it does no harm to save an exercise in which you earned IM. If instead, you simply start an exercise without classifying it as a walk, run, cardio, or other (i.e., without the use of the Start button), you will get the health benefits from your fitness program but you will not accrue Intensity Minutes.
  • You must press Start, select an exercise mode (walk, run, cardio, or other), and exercise at least moderately for at least 10 minutes to earn any IM.
  • Although you will accrue Intensity Minutes from the moment you begin a recorded exercise, you will not earn these IM unless you exercise for at least 10 minutes in a moderate or vigorous zone. That is, your watch will not show your earned IM for at least 10 minutes. If it takes you one minute of warm up to reach Zone 1, your watch will not show your earned IM for at least 11 minutes. After 10 minutes of moderate or vigorous exercise, your IM display will jump to show whatever IM you have accrued in the last 10 minutes.
  • After 10 minutes at or above your moderate zone, your IM display will continue to increase with each additional exercise minute. Your IM will change by 0, 1, or 2 per minute depending on your zone. If you drop to Zone 0 for a few minutes, your watch will assume that you have stopped exercising. You will need to accrue at least another 10 minutes of moderate exercise before your watch will again give you IM credit.
  • Maximize your IM by staying in at least the upper part of Zone 2, where you earn 2 IM/minute. Earn 1 IM/minute by staying in or above Zone 1.
  • Conclusion: Garmin displays your earned IM after 10 minutes of moderate exercise. You do not accrue IM for unrecorded exercises. For recorded exercises, you accrue IM during the first 10 minutes of warm-up but these IM will be unearned (i.e., lost) if you don’t sustain your exercise for more than 10 minutes. By jogging whenever you drop below Zone 1 you will be able to earn at least 1 IM/minute of recorded exercise.

Tags: Garmin; Vivosmart; HR+; GPS; Intensity Minutes; Bluetooth; recording an exercise; supported watches; unsupported watches.