If you want all the details about the Oura Ring, you can just visit their website; here, though, I want to give some insight into what I think one should know about this health-tracking wearable.
The Oura Ring has become a lonely contender among health tracking wearables in the shape of a ring.
There used to be another, but that company has moved into a business security area, if I’m informed correctly.
All the Things to Consider
It’s not particularly surprising that a wearable in the shape of a ring should have a hard standing.
Ring = Jewelry?
As a ring – as in, a ring to be worn on a finger – the Oura Ring competes with jewelry for that space.
Anyone who doesn’t want to wear a ring may already have issues with that.
Anyone who wants to wear a ring with a different look, not least a wedding band, may also have issues with an Oura.
Sizing and Wearing Comfort
A ring has other downsides:
It is not adjustable, meaning that you have to choose the right size for the finger you want to wear it on.
Depending on your fingers’ shape and size, you may only be able to wear it on that exact finger.
The Oura ring is not a thin gold band, either, so there are chances that you’ll feel it against your adjacent fingers.
The Oura Sizing Kit
Oura offers a sizing kit to try on different sizes, and check for comfort.
It feels a bit wasteful to get a whole set of plastic rings just for trying on, and it makes the whole process of getting an Oura Ring take longer:
First, you order the ring you’d like to get and tick the option to get the sizing kit. That’s sent out, you try it out, decide, then go back to your order to set the size.
Only then does the actual ring get sent.
It’s not outrageously bad for the certainty that it will all be well, but this will take you some two weeks between ordering and actually starting to use the health tracking.
I can only recommend using this process, though. Without it, I would have gone seriously wrong with the sizing.
Passive Tracking, Insights in App
The form factor of a ring also means that this is one wearable that only tracks passively. You can only see the data that it collects when you look into the companion app; there is no display, not even an indication of low battery.
With all that, a fitness band or watch-wearable has a much easier standing and a more obvious value proposition. Now that most of those include GPS, even more so.
That’s a long list of things to consider, things that might make you hesitant. The price of the Oura Ring only adds to that.
There are also distinct upsides, though.
The Upside of the Oura Ring
Perhaps the two biggest advantages of the Oura Ring are issues of it, seen in a different light: the form factor and the passivity of the tracking.
The Watch Problem
More and more people want everything from whatever sports watch they decided to get, from sports tracking to fitness advice to everyday stress analysis and sleep tracking – not to mention smartwatch features.
It’s understandable, but it’s also something that makes those watches a bit dangerous.
Watches that track heart rate (and more) continuously feel like they should be on one’s wrist continuously.
All too often, the result is a rash on the skin underneath the watch that was worn just too long.
The Ring Advantage
The Oura Ring does not have that problem.
Even if it is only taken off every few days for recharging, otherwise worn 24/7, it does not have enough (constant) contact with the skin to cause irritations.
When washing hands, the ring and the skin underneath it are also washed. When drying off the hands, the ring is also dried off sufficiently. Even if not, it does not cover so much skin that it wouldn’t dry off quickly.
Fingers don’t sweat so much, either, so that this does not cause issues the way it can happen with watches and the skin of the wrist underneath.
The Pleasure of No-Show Tracking
I like various watches, and watches in general, quite enough.
Sometimes, I still don’t want to have a watch on my wrist. Sometimes even during the day, but especially during the night (and sleep tracking, which WearOS is not good for, is a particular reason why Oura Ring and Suunto 7 complement each other so well).
I still like to get some data tracked constantly, without having it shown, without being led to worrying about it – and this is exactly what the Oura Ring does.
There are no reminders of the steps taken so far that could lead into the feeling that I must move more. There is no training diary that says I need to go out. There is not even any time display.
Everything (more or less) is in the companion app, though. It can even send notifications to move if I haven’t moved around for too long.
The Oura Ring’s Special Tracking
The Oura Ring is rather different from many wearables, especially all the sports watches, in the focus it has in its tracking, too. In a way that I find very interesting for health tracking on its own, and interesting as complement to sports watch tracking, as well.
Daily, daytime, tracking by the Oura Ring is limited to nothing but everyday activity tracking.
Of course, it still makes more of that.
The app indicates
- periods and ratios of high / medium / low periods of movement throughout the day,
- different contributors to daily activity,
- steps and their distance equivalent,
- calories, and
- progress towards daily activity/calorie goals.
Activity contributors also include
- training frequency and
- training volume and
- recovery time.
However, the Oura Ring does not track workouts as such, itself.
Sports Tracking: No
Sports activities, workouts, etc. only appear as periods of higher activity level (if they are recognizable to the ring as that – e.g. a spin class with hands static on the grip won’t appear as such).
If the workouts are tracked by Google Fit or imported into that app, then the Oura Ring app can also automatically get the activity note synced into it.
Otherwise, workout notes (type, start time, duration, and intensity) can be added manually.
Rest Tracking: Yes
Rest periods, by the way, can also appear in the app like synced workout data does; they are recognized by the ring and noted in the app.
Where the Oura Ring also offers more special data giving insight into heart rate and heart rate variability during the day is both during such restful periods and when you “Take a moment” through the app, i.e. do a meditation session for “Presence” (attention), (guided) breathing for “Rest”, or “Check body status.”
This is curiously different from other trackers/wearables.
It avoids any clamor for things that the Oura Ring could not possibly offer well (basically, anything around sports tracking), though.
And it fits well with the focus that this device does have.
The Data Focus of the Oura Ring
What the Oura Ring is focused on, when it comes to gathering data, are sleep and readiness, the latter based on HRV recordings during sleep.
The Oura Ring measures heart rate and heart rate variability, and with that, readiness, utilizing an IR sensor that looks deeper into the skin, positioned on a finger where it can look at the small arteries there (while watches have to gather the data from capillaries in the skin), and only activating when still (to avoid bad data captured while moving).
For analysis and advice, sleep and readiness data are considered in relation to activity, as we’ll look at below.
This focus is quite interesting.
My comparison with sports watches that also do health / stress / sleep tracking has not shown great differences between their results and those from the Oura Ring.
The Oura argument is that HR(V) tracking during the day, with all the bouncing from normal activity, does not deliver the best of insight, hence they don’t do it – and that might well be true.
When it comes to sleep, the Oura Ring captures
- time in bed as well as
- total sleep time, and
- “sleep efficiency,” the ratio of sleep and time in bed,
- resting heart rate (as graph, minimum, and average),
- sleep stages (awake, REM, light, deep sleep) and
- movement (restlessness).
There is also the analysis (as with activity) of “Sleep Contributors”:
- Total sleep
- REM sleep
- Deep sleep
- Latency (time it took to fall asleep)
All the various factors are also reflected in an overall Sleep Score.
HRV and Readiness
The third main focus of the Oura Ring and app – aside from (daily) activity and sleep – is “Readiness.”
Again, there is an overall score immediately given on the app’s home page.
Diving deeper into the data, on its dedicated tab, there is a
- chart of the readiness (and resting HR) over time,
- the last night’s resting HR,
- change in body temperature, and
- respiratory rate.
The bottom of this tab shows
- the graph of the last night’s heart rate variability (and gives average and max values), and
- the graph of (resting) heart rate during that sleep period (giving average and minimum values separately).
In between, as usual, are “contributors:”
- Resting heart rate
- HRV balance
- Body temperature
- Recovery index
- Previous night(‘s sleep score)
- Sleep Balance (i.e., sufficient or lacking sleep)
- Previous Day(‘s) Activity
- Activity Balance
These “contributors” always get analyzed in terms of their values and/or normal ratios and interpreted as something that is optimal, okay, or to “pay attention” to.
When HRV is Measured
Unless you “take a moment” with the app (to reiterate this), HRV and related readiness measurements are only done while sleeping (or resting and not moving). Even then, they are only done when not tossing and turning, otherwise, the graphs will show gaps.
This may sound a bit odd, but it is done to improve the quality of the measurements.
Not that data were completely bad otherwise, but with other wearables that measure such things throughout the day, it is not clear to what extent the data is valid or skewed because of measurement errors due to movement.
You can see this as a problem with the Oura Ring, if you feel that you need stress and body battery values from the wearable on your wrist.
I don’t dislike having those, but I find the Oura approach rather refreshing: just forego measurements that could very well be less correct and therefore less valuable, and focus on those that should be the most consistent, instead.
All In All
For an overall image of one’s health and its development over time, taking into account the influence of activity but not focusing on sports performance, there is a lot to like here.
Not everyone is an athlete, many of us sports people could do well to be a little less focused on performance and progress – and not many wearables focus so well on these aspects of general activity, sleep and readiness.
There is usually either a focus on steps (you know, 10,000 of ’em) or on sports training. Not often are activity, sleep and readiness analyzed in connection.
The Oura Ring’s app summarizes everything on its home page, with shifting displays to focus on what matters more at different times of day (focusing on readiness in the morning, activity during the day, sleep as bedtime approaches… if I remember that correctly).
This is very nicely done, whether one uses it to have an overview of tracked data or actually dives deeper into details and explanations to consider changes, in order to improve health.
For all the times with more everyday activity than training, for continuing tracking without overly focusing on the data, I find the Oura Ring a great choice.