Garmin software update looks set to unlock new health tracking tools for its smartwatches

Mid-session workout intensity adjustment might be coming at last - along with ECG recording and SpO2 alerts

Image shows a cyclist using one of the best smartwatches for cycling
(Image credit: Future)

According to an anonymous source which has leaked the information to The5krunner’s website, Garmin looks set to release a whole host of new fitness and health-tracking features and tools. 

Our friends over at Advnture have found leaks to The5krunner have proven reliable in the past, so let’s jump in with a look at what might be coming soon to Garmin’s best smartwatches for cycling:

Workout Intensity adjustment

A long awaited feature for Garmin smartwatches is the ability to adjust your workout’s intensity on-the-go via the watch’s touchscreen - and without having to restart the session. 

Sure, it’s not as unique or as flashy as the new Garmin Edge 1040 Solar’s ability to generate an optimal pacing plan for any route you wish, but it is the simple things that can really make an outsized difference. 

Being able to quickly scale the intensity of a workout - harder if you’re feeling good, easier if you’re carrying a bit of fatigue - is already a feature in many of the best indoor cycling apps, such as Zwift or Wahoo X. If this leak proves accurate, that could soon also be a feature of Garmin smartwatches, following the expected software update.

ECG app

Also among the new tools which might be released is electrocardiogram (ECG) recording that will detect signs of atrial fibrillation (an irregular heart rhythm). According to The5krunner, some higher-end Garmin smartwatches already have the hardware - the software just needs to be released for us to make use of it. 

Backing up a bit, atrial fibrillation is a symptom that’s common in people with a variety of heart conditions and early detection / treatment, naturally, is much better than waiting for the conditions to manifest themselves in other ways.

Garmin conducted a clinical trial for its ECG software back in 2021 and found that the software’s results were well aligned with a doctor’s interpretation of the results from a medical-standard electrocardiogram - which bodes well.

However, ECG readings from smartwatches do not count as a proper medical diagnosis - the readings should be taken as more of a prompt for getting checked over by a doctor for a full investigation. That said, to have that prompt in the first place is a step in the right direction for potentially catching heart issues early - and it is a feature already offered by some of Garmin’s competitors, the Apple Watch being most prominent amongst them.

SpO2 alerts

Finally, it looks like SpO2 notifications are on the way, too. This refers to a watch’s ability to detect your oxygen saturation levels (i.e. your SpO2), and its ability to notify you if you dip below a certain level while you are sleeping.

This could be useful for detecting medical conditions such as sleep apnea, which is when your breathing stops and starts whilst you are asleep. Understandably, this is not a good thing and can lead to more serious problems.

Theoretically, SpO2 readings could be useful for athletes training at altitude as well. However, blood oxygen readings from smartwatches don’t tend to be very accurate - so their use here is generally limited. 

Again, this is a software feature that might be coming to smartwatches which are already equipped with the necessary hardware.

Wondering about whether to invest in a smartwatch? We took at look at the pros and cons of smartwatches versus cycling computers for cyclists, and which wearable data is worth tracking for cyclists.

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