The Polar Ignite Is a True Fitness Trainer on Your Wrist – The Full Review

polar ignite
Polar Ignite

The Polar Ignite is a personal trainer on your wrist, guiding you with personalized workout suggestions and rather in-depth metrics for determining your fitness level. The sleep tracking is advanced providing beat-to-beat intervals and respiration. There’s really not another water in its price range that is so truly focused on your health and I’m going to keep stressing that because the Polar Ignite is all about improving your fitness level.

The Ignite is the first watch from Polar that I’ve tested, though have used their Polar H10 chest heart rate strap for quite a while so it was a new experience for me. I wasn’t familiar with the Polar Flow app but quickly learned my way around it. And boy is there a lot of information to look through. It’s similar to Garmin but with added information to help you understand what the data means.

You can check out the price and different color options of the Polar Ignite on Amazon.

For example, here’s the data I got from an outdoor bike ride:

Duration: 1:16:36
Distance: 10.94 mi
HR Avg: 112 bpm
Calories: 386kcal
HR min: 84 bpm
HR max: 146 bpm
Fat burn: 46%
Speed avg: 8.5 mph
Speed max: 17.9 mph
Ascent: 340 ft
Descent: 380 ft
Training Benefit: Basic Training, long. “Great! This long, low intensity session improved your basic endurance and your body’s ability to burn fat during exercise.”
Training Load Pro: Very High Cardio Load (TRIMP), 77 Overreaching. “If you keep on overreaching, you’ll increase your risk for overtraining. With this much training, you’re prone to sports related injuries. You may also fall ill more easily.”
Training Zones: (Time spent in each HR zone)
Level 5: 00:00:00
Level 4: 00:00:57
Level 3: 00:15:13
Level 2: 00:46:33
Level 1: 00:13:47





It had estimated my training load as overreaching on this particular day because I was testing out the heart rate sensor against the Polar H10 chest heart rate strap whose results also showed up in the app. It looked like I had been a workout fool that day with indoor cycling, strength training, and treadmill running all registered twice and then that long bike ride! Yeah, that would have been overreaching.

The longer you wear the watch while sleeping and doing various workouts the better it’s going to get to know you and your fitness level. You’re going to get better advice as you go. In the beginning the advice is more general but in a week or two training load estimates are going to be more accurate.

After wearing the watch for several weeks, I have to admit that it was hard to follow the daily recommendations religiously. Sometimes I’d rather go for a bike ride, or a hike, instead of hitting the gym for circuit training but that’s okay. You can do your own thing yet this is the only watch I’ve worn that has motivated me to vary my weekly workout routine.

This particular day’s suggested workout – cardio interval – a rather intense workout

In fact, I’ve come to enjoy circuit training and working more of my muscles. I feel stronger, have less back pain, and I’m not stuck in the rut of only using the treadmill or exercise bike – being the cardio-aholic I am. I’ve actually discovered what those other machines in the gym are for. Wow!

I was most impressed with the sleep tracking on the Polar Ignite. It has some of the most advanced metrics that I’ve seen from a watch.

Polar Ignite Sleep Tracking
ANS Charge
ANS Charge and Sleep Charge compared to previous nights

HRV, beat-to-beat-interval, breathing rate
Selecting more data from ANS charge will bring up your average heart rate, beat-to-beat interval average in milliseconds, heart rate variability HRV, and breathing rate. You can also click on the little “i” icon for detail information as to what each of these measurements are.

Here’s the information I got from one night of sleep:

Sleep Time: 6h 31min
Time I Fell Asleep: 10:50 PM
Time I Woke Up: 5:21 AM
Sleep Score: 84/100, Moderate amount (much above usual), Good solidity, Good regeneration
Light Sleep: 4h 8min
Deep Sleep: 1h 14min
REM: 1 h 1min
Interruptions: 9min





I have to say that this is a rare night of sleep for me. Usually my sleep score is horrible and I average less than 6 hours of sleep.

Avg sleep time: 5 h 52 min
Long interruptions: AVG 6 min
Continuity: AVG 4.3/5
Actual Sleep: AVG 96%
Good regeneration, usual
REM sleep 15%, AVG 22%
Deep sleep 15%, AVG 22%

Heart rate (4 hour average)

Heart rate 54 bpm
Beat-to-beat-interval avg 1108 ms (baseline 55 bpm (1087 ms)
Heart rate variability 72 ms (baseline 81 ms)
Breathing rate 17.6 br/min (baseline 16.6 br/min)

Nightly recharge: OK
ANS charge: below usual
Sleep charge: Much above usual

So as you can see from above, there’s a lot of data to comb through for just a single night of sleep but you’ll have to wear the watch for a few nights to have a baseline established and get all of the data.

It’s difficult to know whether heart rate variability and the beat-to-beat interval are accurate but the breathing rate was very similar to the information I got from the Garmin Vivoactive 4s which also measures respiration.

The Apple Watch Series 4 measures HRV and it’s usually a little lower but I have no way of knowing which device is giving me the best data.

As far as heart rate goes, it’s on par with all the best watches I’ve tested. My heart rate is usually in the 50s when I’m asleep or at rest.

The Polar Ignite also has a fitness test on the watch. It’s a simple test in which you simply lay down and let the test run for a few minutes while it measures your heart rate. This is an aerobic fitness test that determines your cardiovascular fitness at rest. It estimated my fitness level as low as 28 and as high as 32.

The funny thing about the test, or really about me, is that your supposed to just chill out and breath as you normally would at rest. However, the more relaxed I tried to become and the more I tried to slow down my breathing to its normal rate, the more I kinda hyperventilated and stressed out I became. That’s why I suck at yoga. Haha!

So, I’m not sure if my results were skewed by my “white coat syndrome” attempts at rest. Fitbit’s has a higher fitness level score for me (36-40) and both Fitbit and Garmin determine fitness level (or VO2Max) best after you do a run using GPS. It’s hard to say which device is most accurate but I do think Fitbit’s score is a bit inflated because it has me at nearly the top of the range compared to others in my age group.

Fitbit Versa 2 (left) and Polar Ignite (right) size comparison

Check out the prices and different color options of the Polar Ignite and Fitbit Versa 2 on Amazon. Both are similarly priced.

While I’d love to claim that I have such a high fitness level, I’m more inclined to believe the Polar Ignite. I know there’s room for improvement in my fitness level.

Polar on the other hand really wants you to work it using their FitSpark coaching program. The training recommendations I got daily weren’t easy, cheesy workouts. If a person truly followed the recommendations I don’t have a doubt in my mind that that person would become very fit.

Like a human personal fitness coach would challenge you with more intense workouts, so does the Polar Ignite. You do have options however. You don’t have to do the most intense workout and some days it will tell you to take it easy and focus more on supportive workouts like stretching and some body weight activities.

Intense workouts on Polar Ignite
A description of the cardio interval workout – it’s intense!

So, as personal trainer on your wrist, the Polar Ignite lives up to its claim. It doesn’t just throw out random workouts that have nothing to do with your fitness level. It primarily bases the daily recommendations from your sleep charge the night before and your fitness level.

Fitness level is determined by your training history, VO2Max (the fitness test on the watch), and training background. Again, you’ll get better recommendations as the watch has more data to work with. After 28 days, it’s going to have a good idea what your fitness level truly is.

So, obviously I’ve spent a lot of time on the health features of the Polar Ignite because that’s the whole point of the Polar Ignite. Yes, there are smartwatches that do more smartwatch-y things but none have made me focus so much on my workout routines and true fitness abilities and that’s what I appreciate the most about the Polar Ignite.

If you’re interested in becoming more fit, then this is a watch to take a serious look at. Now we’ll get into heart rate and GPS accuracy during workouts.

Heart Rate Accuracy

Here are the results of the Polar Ignite heart rate sensor versus the Polar H10 chest heart rate strap:

Treadmill Run

Polar Ignite
HR Avg 116 bpm
HR Min 95 bpm
HR Max 136 bpm

Polar H10
HR Avg 117 bpm
HR Min 94 bpm
HR Max 142 bpm

Strength Training

Polar Ignite
HR Avg 110 bpm
HR Min 95 bpm
HR max 130 bpm

Polar H10
HR Avg 109 bpm
HR Min 88 bpm
Hr max 130 bpm

Indoor Cycling

Polar Ignite
HR Avg 123 bpm
HR Min 71 bpm
HR Max 140 bpm

Polar H10
HR Avg 122 bpm
HR Min 70 bpm
HR Max 140 bpm

So, as you can see the heart rate results were nearly identical during this gym workout activities. The Ignite even did a good job during strength training and a lot of wrist heart rate sensors don’t do so great at that.

I did notice however that during outdoor cycling when compared against other watches, the Ignite was a little bit slower at displaying my heart rate as it increased but the end results were still quite accurate.

I don’t do super intense workouts so your experience might be a little different than mine but I was pleased with the performance of the heart rate sensor on the Polar Ignite.

Heart Rate Accuracy Grade: A-

GPS Accuracy

I was a little concerned about GPS accuracy after reading DC Rainmaker’s initial review of the Polar Ignite but I got terrific results from the built-in GPS when compared against various other watches and devices.

In fact, against both the Fitbit Versa 2 and Endomondo both of which use the GPS on my iPhone XR, the Polar Ignite estimated the same total distance and looking at the map of the bike ride afterwards it nailed my location as I rode along a paved bike path that follows along a creek through hills and valleys, open meadows, and dense woods.

Polar Ignite Distance
Polar Ignite Data from Cycling
polar ignite training load
Polar Ignite Training Load and Heart Rate Data
Fitbit Versa 2 Heart Rate
Fitbit Versa 2 Heart Rate and Calorie Data from same bike ride

I haven’t had any issues at all with the GPS. It’s been terrific following my along residential streets and in more remote areas.

Of course, GPS is always affected to a degree if you’re walking in a forest or near tall buildings. Since GPS uses satellites to determine your location if there’s something blocking the satellite signal it’s not going to be as accurate. That’s true of any GPS device I’ve ever used.

Still, the Polar Ignite did a good job and I think I can rely on the distance estimates it provides.

Endomondo Data
Endomondo data from same bike ride

Polar Ignite map
Polar Ignite Map View
Polar Ignite Satellite View
Polar Ignite Satellite Map View. It might be hard to tell but this followed my actual path very well. There are two bridges here that I crossed. These are the type of results that I have regularly experienced. Very good.

GPS Accuracy Grade: A-

Connectivity

The Polar Ignite also is capable of receiving notifications from your phone. It supports both iOS and Android. One quirky behavior I noticed is I’d often receive the same notification multiple times if I didn’t check the notification on my phone. Sometimes that was a little annoying.

Syncing workouts to the mobile app was sometimes automatic and other times I had to initiate it from the watch. Holding on the single button while connect the watch to the phone and sync a workout.

Other than that, I didn’t have any issues setting up the watch with my phone or the Bluetooth connection. If I hadn’t worn the watch for a while I sometimes had to wait a little bit for the watch to connect again with my phone but I didn’t have to jump through hoops for the watch to reconnect.

You can’t reply to notifications using either iOS or Android so it’s fairly basic as a smartwatch in those terms. The Polar Ignite is a fitness watch, pure and simple. It’s not the Apple Watch or a Samsung Galaxy Watch or WearOS watch. It’s all about fitness.

Connectivity Grade: B-

Build Quality/Features

The Polar Ignite is lightweight and incredibly thin. It features an OLED display though I would prefer a transflective display similar to what many Garmin and Polar devices use. Transflective displays are terrific outdoors and consume much less battery.

One thing that did annoy me about the Polar Ignite was the screen responsiveness. It’s not that great. It was sometimes difficult to select an activity because as I tried to scroll the same activity kept appearing over and over again. I’d eventually get to the activity I wanted to select but the screen could use some improving.

Actually, I’d prefer buttons over touchscreen for such a watch especially since the menus are simple.

The strap on the watch is a quick release strap which is easy to replace. I’d switch it out to a more breathable material, especially for those sweaty workouts and when sleeping. But it’s easy to change.

I was also asked by someone if the white became dingy looking after awhile and I think the strap would in time but the watch case itself still looks as bright and clean as the day I got it and I’ve had it now for about two months. There are other colors to choose from besides white.

One major bug was that during cycling activities, steps were being counted along the bumpy ride. This can really throw off your data for that day. Otherwise, it is fairly accurate at step counting but this is a flaw that Polar really needs to work out.

Build Quality/Features Grade: B-

Battery Life

I think I easily got about 3 days of battery life from the Polar Ignite and that’s with some lengthy workouts. This isn’t a watch that you’ll have to charge every single day which is convenient. There are fitness watches that achieve better battery life but considering how good the sleep tracking is how much its monitoring your heart 24/7 I think the battery life is actually quite good.

Battery Life Grade: B

Conclusion

In conclusion, the Polar Ignite lives up to being a fitness coach on your wrist. I was impressed with the detailed look at my sleep, including beat-to-beat intervals, HRV, and breathing rate. The daily recommendations for workouts really pushed me, as a fitness trainer would.

I couldn’t always keep up with those recommendations but it provided alternative workouts if the one it suggested wasn’t one you really wanted to do or had time for that day. The best thing about the Polar Ignite is that it encourages me to vary my workouts and work different muscle groups.

As an everyday watch, it’s comfortable to wear. You do receive notifications and the watch is stylish enough to wear outside of the gym. I love how thin it is. I would have preferred a transflective display and buttons to navigate through the watch.

Overall, if this a fitness watch that you’re looking at, I can easily recommend it. If you want a watch that is focused on your fitness and you want to improve your fitness level, it has the ability to help you do that. I’m looking forward to future devices from Polar.