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Exercise and Fitness

Gear Review: Wearables | Garmin Instinct

Bryan Franco | Exercise Specialist
/ September 8, 2022
watch on its side

(Disclaimer: the Garmin cannot detect heart attack, blood clots, stroke, and other heart conditions. If experiencing any pain in the chest, pressure, or tightness, call emergency services immediately.)   

Garmin Instinct Features

Welcome back to Gear Review. I will be reviewing Garmin — specifically, the Garmin Instinct. Garmin is known to have a variety of watches at different price ranges, anywhere from $100 to $900. While Fitbit focuses on lifestyle and Apple Watch has health metrics like EKG, Garmin is more suited for exercise, and the Instinct is a budget-friendly watch that Garmin makes. This device, at first glance, has a retro look that plays homage to the Casio G-Shock watch. However, don’t let the plastic casing fool you. The watch casing is rated military grade 810, and is thermal, shock, and water resistant up to 100 meters. The watch has extra notches that allow adjustment to all wrist sizes, and the buttons are flush to the watch case, which will stop accidental presses. The watch face does not have a color display but a monochrome one. At first, it may seem like it will not be visible, but after using it for some time, especially during walks, I could see the values with no issue, even in direct sunlight. The watch glass is made not from sapphire but from chemically-made glass that won’t crack. The watch battery is the most remarkable part; it will give you 14 days in smart mode and about 16 hours during GPS mode when going on hikes, trail runs, or bike rides.

Garmin Instinct

The watch comes with all pre-packaged Garmin settings, such as open water swim, 3D distance/speed, Xero locations, dual grid coordinates, and trail run auto-climb. Some settings are pre-programmed into the watch, though the watch does not support VO2 max, training load, music, golf, Connect IQ (Garmin’s app store), or mobile payments. Instead, it prioritizes features useful for outdoor adventures, like Tracback, an essential component to help get you back if you get lost on a hike.

Garmin Instinct Exercise Tracking

Garmin’s best feature is its swim tracking. The Garmin Instinct gives you great feedback on the stride and length of the pool you have swum. Though I did not personally test this feature, the image below is an example of the insight it can provide.

For the hiking test, I wanted to assess the GPS signal. The watch had created some solid tracking lines during my movement with hiccups during some turns, though a great feature is that you can see the change in elevation as well as your heart rate. The watch is rugged and lightweight, so you don’t notice that you have it on during the activity. When I started exercise training, I noticed that the watch doesn’t pick up specific heart rate values, which can cause changes and drops in the graph as shown below. The graph shows a large drop in heart rate due to the flexion in the wrist, causing more movement. You may want to add an extra heart rate monitor such as a Polar, if tracking heart rate is important to you.


All in all, I noticed that the Garmin Instinct watch has many features, and I believe it’s worth considering. Wearable devices may be a little pricey, which may shy some away from purchasing them, but I highly recommend the budget Instinct. This device is packed full of useful settings including GPS tracking, which graphs your runs and also helps get you back if you lose your trail when hiking. Thank you all for taking the time to read this blog. 

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