Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

Everything you need to know about Garmin's female-focused tracking features
Garmin women's health tracking: A guide
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Garmin has decided to follow in Fitbit’s footsteps and added a menstrual cycle tracking feature to the Garmin Connect companion app. With the new feature enabled, you can track your menstrual cycle, log symptoms, receive predictions for periods and fertile windows, as well as view daily insights based on where you are in your cycle.

Alongside the new feature, Garmin revealed plans to bolster female health tracking in the future and has sponsored a research study at The University of Kansas Medical Center to examine how wearables and the data they produce can assist menstrual cycle tracking and ovulation prediction.

Essential reading: Fitbit's female health tracking features explored

A focus on female health tracking makes sense. Over the past few years, we’ve seen a rise in female-focused health tech, as well as a concerted effort to integrate menstrual tracking data into already established apps and wearables – like those from Fitbit and, soon, Apple.

But how does Garmin’s tracking work? We put the new menstrual cycling tracking feature to the test to find out how to set it up and how useful its insights and predictions really are.

Garmin menstrual tracking: What is it?

Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

Garmin’s new menstrual cycling tracking feature allows you to track your period, and a range of other symptoms, as well as see predictions about when your next period is due. Although design and data can differ, there are lots of period tracking apps on the market, including Clue, Dot Fertility and Natural Cycles, just to name a few, which all offer a similar experience.

What Garmin is offering here isn’t new. But what’s interesting, and promising, about this move is that information about your menstrual cycle could feed into what Garmin already knows about you – data about menstruation, fitness, sleep and stress is now, essentially, in one place. Or at least that’s what companies like Garmin, Fitbit and Apple want – to be the ultimate health-tracking solution so you only need one wearable and one app.

Although it sounds a bit ominous that one company might know everything about you, from how you slept last night to whether you’re ovulating right now and what you had for dinner today, it’s also extremely useful.

For example, you might be able to better understand how your sleep is affected by your menstrual cycle and make changes to improve it. You could figure out what exercises are best suited to your energy levels around the time of ovulation or show your GP how your moods are changing a lot depending on your cycle.

Garmin menstrual tracking: Getting set up

Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

Setting up menstrual tracking on the Garmin Connect app is unnecessarily confusing. That’s because you’ll need to download the Connect IQ app for menstrual tracking. But we couldn’t do that from within the app itself. You have to do it from the separate Connect IQ app or opening Garmin Express on a laptop, plugging in your compatible Garmin device (the Vivoactive 3 in this case) and adding it that way. Granted this only took 15 minutes in total, but it felt like a lot of hassle for what should have been a simple process.

A note on compatibility too. The Menstrual Cycle Tracking feature will work with the Forerunner 645 Music, vívoactive 3, vívoactive 3 Music and fēnix 5 Plus Series watches. Garmin plans to add the functionality to the Fenix 5 Series, Fenix Chronos, Forerunner 935, Forerunner 945, Forerunner 645, Forerunner 245 and Forerunner 245 Music at a later date too.

Once installed, you can head to the app, click on ‘Health & Performance’, then scroll down to ‘Menstrual Cycle’. You’ll then be asked a series of questions to get started, including your average cycle length, when your last period was and which kind of contraception you’re using.

All of your menstrual cycle data is then displayed on a card in your home screen feed and can be added to the bottom navigation bar too. This felt like a nice touch because you can place menstrual cycle tracking as a prime feature within the app – we all know this data is just as important as how you slept and how much you worked out today and it’s good to see that’s being acknowledged.

Garmin menstrual tracking: Tracking and logging your cycle

Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

The menstrual cycle tracking feature works in the same way as any other period and ovulation tracking app. You can put the dates of your last period in the app and it’ll predict the next. You can edit period days and make a lot of changes in the settings. For example, you can change which hormonal contraceptive you’re using and tell the app whether you have an irregular cycle or not, in order to receive better predictions.

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I've been using the feature for just under two months and found it predicted my last period a day out – it’ll be interesting to see how this improves over time. It’s also worth mentioning both Fitbit’s period tracking feature and the Natural Cycles app also had me a day out this month too.

A simple period tracker is useful, but Garmin’s features get smarter when it comes to logging other symptoms. You can keep track of physical symptoms, including acne, bloating, body aches, cramps, cravings and fatigue. You can also log your mood each day. You can choose from energetic, overwhelmed, emotional and more.

Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

You can also log the consistency of discharge, if you’ve had sex today or not and the levels of your sex drive. If that sounds like a lot, don’t worry. We like that you can easily toggle which symptoms you want to track on and off. For example, some of these symptoms will be useful to track if you’re trying to conceive but not if you just want a simple period tracker.

Although physical symptoms and information about sex are pretty standard, it’s good to see a mood log integrated here. It’s common knowledge that women can experience mood fluctuations before and during their periods, but research also shows some women experience similar symptoms around the time of ovulation too. The more we can track these symptoms and compare them to our cycles, the better we’ll understand our bodies and our minds and be able to seek help or make necessary changes if needed.

It’s worth mentioning that these symptoms can also be logged directly from your wearable – you don’t have to log into the app. I found this made me more likely to remember to track my symptoms, whereas tucked away in the app I’d have probably forgotten.

Garmin menstrual tracking: Insights

Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

The Garmin menstrual tracking feature also offers up something a bit different, and very useful, and that’s personalised insights based on whereabouts in your cycle you are.

Essential reading: Best Garmin Connect IQ apps to download

Some period tracking apps already deliver these kinds of insights, but more often than not they’re useless or patronising – along the lines of telling you to stock up on tampons and ice-cream as PMS is about to kick in.

Garmin’s insights, however, are different because they feel relevant and geared up to fitness and performance. For example, on Cycle Day 13 Garmin says my body should be able to handle more endurance-based training today.

Fair enough, this nugget of info is small, and will need to be expanded on to become indispensable in the face of mounting competition from other apps and wearables, but this kind of insight is a step in the right direction.

More personalised information is something we are increasingly looking for from health and fitness tech and something that brands like Garmin, Fitbit and Apple should be able to provide the more data they collect about us.

This is where the big benefit of having female health tracking tech within established wearable ecosystems could be – it’s another way to find out more about you. But the key is converting that data into useful insights rather than more charts, graphs and cold, hard stats.

Garmin menstrual tracking: Should you ditch your period tracking app?

Garmin's new women's health tracking features explored

It’s good to see Garmin adding female health tracking to its offering and, given its focus on sponsoring research, it could prove to be an even more accurate way to track your cycle in future.

However, right now, just like Fitbit’s female health tracking, it feels like early days. This is a simple menstrual tracker with a few extras, there’s nothing new here.

It’s difficult to give advice on menstrual tracking because, just like all of our cycles, everyone is different. Many women have found great success with apps like Flo and Clue, as well as those that allow you to input different metrics to get more detailed results about your cycle, like Natural Cycles or Ava. I have a regular menstrual cycle, so using Garmin’s tracking feature was easy to move to, but those with more irregular cycles might not find it so intuitive.

If you’re not already tracking your period and have a Garmin device, then go ahead and give it a try. For everyone else, it might be wise to use it alongside your current favourite app and see how they compare, especially if you have an irregular cycle or you’re pregnant – there are no pregnancy tracking features on offer here.

In the future, we'd like to see even more options to add in data, like temperature, in order to serve up more accurate predictions, as well as expanding on some of the symptom tracking, providing more detailed insights and connecting other metrics, like stress or energy to cycle data. However, this is a good start – especially with mood tracking and simple insights already built-in.

It’s also worth mentioning that the features are all easy-to-use and in keeping with Garmin’s detailed, straightforward style and design – there are no unnecessary pink designs or silly cartoons, instead Garmin takes your menstrual cycle as seriously as your fitness, which is refreshing.

TAGGEDGarmin

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