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What is a Firstbeat Lifestyle Assessment?


Lifestyle Assessments conducted with the Firstbeat Analysis Server are a tool for healthcare, well-being and fitness professionals to concretize the health effects of various lifestyle factors. The goal is to support individual well-being by measuring, for example, the sufficiency of recovery, quality of sleep, and health and fitness effects of exercise. Assessments conducted with the Firstbeat Analysis Server bring out individual development areas and strengths in order to make it easier for well-being and health professionals to focus their guidance and action points for the client.

Lifestyle Assessments are based on a server-based program (Firstbeat Analysis Server) that analyzes heartbeat measurement-based information, recognizing physiological changes in the body from heart rate variability. The measurements are conducted in the normal daily life of the client and not in a laboratory environment.



Application Areas and Benefits

Application areas include guidance of stress management, exercise habits and other aspects of lifestyle in various lifestyle, coaching and health assessment projects. The goal is to motivate the client towards positive lifestyle changes via information gained from objective measurement data, without forgetting the subjective experience and the psychological dimension. The assessment can be utilized on its own or together with other existing measurement methods.

EMPLOYEE: Helps with stress management and better recovery and provides exercise guidance and Individualized tips for supporting and enhancing well-being. EMPLOYER: A comprehensive way to take care of employee well-being; for all employees, not just the "active ones" and Reducing sick leave - related costs. OCCUPATIONAL HEALTHCARE/SERVICE PROVIDER: Something new and exciting to complement routine inspections. The 24-hour measurement combines information about work, leisure time and sleep.



Lifestyle Assessment Step-by-Step

The Lifestyle Assessment service includes performing a heartbeat measurement, analyzing the results, a feedback session, planning of goals and possible follow-up measurements. The client carries out a 3-day heartbeat measurement in normal daily life according to the directions provided by the service provider. Once the measurement device has been returned, the service provider downloads the data to the Firstbeat analysis server, conducts the analysis and creates appropriate reports. The results are discussed together with the client in a feedback meeting. At the same time, goals to support personal well-being and action steps to realize the goals are set. Finally, the need for possible further steps and follow-up is discussed and decided.



Autonomic Nervous System and Heart Rate Variability

The Firstbeat analysis method is based on measuring the functioning of the autonomic nervous system with heart rate and heart rate variability. The autonomic nervous system regulates the body and helps it meet various daily challenges. The regulation occurs via the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. The sympathetic nervous system speeds up bodily functions and prepares the body to "fight or flight". The parasympathetic branch slows down bodily functions during rest.

The beating of the heart (heart rate) is not regular. For example, during rest it is normal that the heart rate increases during the inhalation phase and decreases during exhalation. The variation in the time interval between consecutive beats is called heart rate variability (HRV) and it is measured in milliseconds (ms).

In addition to breathing, heart rate variability is affected for example by physical activity, emotions, thoughts and stress. HRV is mainly a result of regulatory processes of the autonomic nervous system, and thus, by analyzing HRV we can make conclusions about the relative influences of sympathetic and parasympathetic activity. As a result of sympathetic activation, heart rate increases and HRV decreases, whereas during rest, heart rate decreases and HRV increases. In general, large HRV is associated with good health and flexible adaptation to challenges, whereas reduced or small HRV is associated with stress and weakened homeostatic regulation.

The R waves in the ECG graph indicate the ventricular contraction phase, and the interval between consecutive R waves (ms) is called a heartbeat (R-R interval). Heart rate variability (HRV) means the variation in time between consecutive heartbeats.



Research Background of the Firstbeat Method

Since the early 1990s, the Research Institute for Olympic Sports (KIHU) has conducted studies, led by Professor Heikki Rusko, about measuring overtraining in athletes. In the early 2000s, the University of Jyvaskyla launched a multidisciplinary research project, where the goal was to determine if employees' stress and recovery can be measured with methods originally developed for athletes. The project also conducted clinical validation studies about measuring autonomic nervous system functions with heart rate variability.

The studies showed that bodily functions and stress can be measured indirectly with heart rate variability -based methods both with athletes and with ”normal” people. Firstbeat has developed a unique technology based on analysis of heart rate reactions and heart rate variability, allowing precise measurement without laboratory conditions or equipment. The technology is based on combining physiological information with mathematical modeling and algorithms. Firstbeat has utilized large databases in its development work, including measurements done both in the laboratory and on the field. From the start, the goal of the technological development has been physiologically accurate and applicable modeling of bodily functions

The first version of the Firstbeat HEALTH application was launched in 2004. The program has undergone constant updating and improvements, and especially the number of different service production applications has increased over the recent years. In the beginning, the method was focused on measurement and research, but today the focus is on scalable service applications. Firstbeat is continuously involved in research collaboration to improve the technology, for example with several universities and research institutions in Finland. The innovative Firstbeat method has also been awarded several patents in Europe and the USA.