Your body on... midterms

    As Northwestern students, our bodies endure a lot in the day-to-day chaos of classes, clubs, library time, career development, cries and maybe – just maybe – sleep. But how does this hectic schedule affect our bodies? Thanks to the proliferation of personal fitness technologies, we can find out.

    Using a FitBit Charge 2, I tracked my heart rate the day before a midterm and compared the results to my heart rate the day of the exam to see if there was a difference.


    Throughout my day, my resting heart rate was about 60 beats per minute. According to the Mayo Clinic, this is on the lower end of the spectrum for a healthy adult resting heart rate. During my sleeping hours – of which there were unfortunately very few – my heart rate decreased to about 45 beats per minute. When I walked around campus, my heart rate would increase to the 100-120 range. These biometrics provided some controls for how my body reacts to various stimuli throughout my day.

    My heart rate throughout the day, as tracked by my FitBit.

    Screenshot courtesy of Ryan Wagner / North by Northwestern

    Now comes the big question: how did my body react to my midterm?

    See that huge peak around noon? That was the moment when sheer panic entered my body as my test finished and my professor was interviewing students about their final project topic proposals. My heart rate jumped to the highest point it reached all day – 130 beats per minute – as adrenaline coursed through my veins. Prior to that moment, my heart rate had been in a relative resting state from 11 a.m. onwards.My heart rate had even decreased to the resting pace of 60 beats per minute as the test progressed. This goes to show that when the heat is on and you are scrambling to get every Scantron bubble filled in, your body goes into overdrive.

    This was my first experience using biometrics to evaluate my body’s physiological responses to the struggles of Northwestern life. I consider the findings to be a success; though in the future I would love to be able to test things like respiration, sweat, body temperature and blood pressure. These data would provide a richer narrative of what the body endures, but nonetheless, it is rather amazing that midterms can be captured so explicitly through heart rate alone.


    blog comments powered by Disqus
    Please read our Comment Policy.