Fitness trackers have become a lot more attractive over the years, but no matter the design, they tend to stick out. If you’re looking for a more discreet alternative that’s comfortable to wear 24/7, you might be interested in the Oura Ring (starting at $299). It looks like jewelry at a glance, but the Oura is far smarter than your average ring. This water-resistant wearable features heart rate, respiration, and body temperature sensors, as well as a 3D accelerometer to measure your activity, sleep, and recovery, and it works with a companion app to help make sense of your data and offer insights to foster healthy habits. The Oura’s ability to track workouts is pretty basic compared with a wrist-worn model, but it offers comprehensive sleep tracking and is more comfortable to wear to bed than a watch or wristband, making it an intriguing alternative.
Picking the Perfect Ring
The Oura ranges in price from $299 to $999 depending on the finish you select. All models feature the same technology and are made of lightweight titanium with a scratch-resistant diamond-like carbon coating (DLC) on the outside and non-allergic seamless inner molding.
There are two styles to choose from: Balance, which comes to a point at the top, and Heritage, which flattens at the top. Both styles are available with either a shiny black or silver finish for $299. For $100 more, you can get the Heritage ring with a matte black or yellow gold-tone finish.
If you like a little bling, the company offers a silver Balance model with five round-cut inset diamonds for $999. Set by an expert goldsmith in Finland, each diamond is 0.005 carats, with a clarity grade of IF-VVS and a color grade of D-F. For this review, Oura sent me the Heritage in yellow.
The ring comes in sizes 6 through 13. You can wear it on any finger on either hand, but Oura says the index, middle, or ring fingers usually work best. When placing your order, you can either choose your ring size right away, or have the company send you a free sizing kit. Oura highly recommends using its sizing kit, so I went that route. After trying the options in the kit, I decided to go with a size 8, which fits my middle finger, pointer, and thumb, so I can move the ring around for comfort if necessary. After you confirm your size on Oura’s site, the ring should arrive within two to six business days.
At the risk of stating the obvious, one of the Oura’s biggest draws is its minimal, sleek design. If you’re in the market for a wearable health tracker that doesn’t look like one, this is an excellent option, and one of the only smart rings on the market right now. We’ve covered smart jewelry in the past, including the Motiv Ring and Ringly, but neither are available as of this writing. Amazon’s unsightly Echo Loop smart ring has been discontinued as well.
The Oura measures 0.3 inches wide, 0.1 inch thick, and weighs 0.14 to 0.21 ounces, depending on your size. When I took it out of the box for the first time, I was taken aback by how light it is; I was expecting it to be weightier, like an actual gold ring, but it feels more like a toy from a Cracker Jack box. It looks a bit bulky on my finger, and the Heritage style’s flat top is slightly reminiscent of a metal bolt. I’m nitpicking, but for the price, I expected it to feel a bit more like real jewelry.
The ring is water-resistant to 328 feet, so it’s safe to wear in the shower, bath, or while swimming. It features a rechargeable battery that allows for five to seven days of power on a charge, depending on your sleep and activity. When it’s running low on juice, the app will notify you (more about the app in the next section). You can view your ring’s battery level at any time by pressing a circle in the top right corner of the app.
In testing, the Oura lasted for five days before its battery dwindled to 24 percent and the app told me to charge it. It comes with a black aluminum charger that powers the ring back back up in 80 minutes or less. A light on the charger pulses when the ring is charging, and turns solid when it’s fully charged.
Setting Up the Oura Ring
Next, the Oura app has you enter your birthday, height, weight, gender, and select your preferred units (metric or imperial). I connected my Apple Health account to the app, which filled this information in automatically.
The app then asks a few questions about your lifestyle, goals, and sleeping habits. You can skip the questions or change your answers in the My Profile section. After the questionnaire, the app downloads any firmware updates and you’re ready to go.
Tracking and Scoring Your Wellness With the Oura Ring
During the day, the Oura automatically tracks your steps, miles traveled, calories burned, activity level, inactive time, and naps. It also tracks both your active and total calorie burn; the former tallies calories burned while working out or engaging in other physical activities, while the latter also includes the calories you burn at rest.
The app initially set an activity goal for me to actively burn 300 calories a day, which I found too easy between my twice-daily dog walks, regular yoga practice, and smart gym equipment testing. I searched for a way to manually increase my active calorie burn goal, but couldn’t find one. Fortunately, the app automatically upped my activity goal to 400 calories after wearing the ring for a while. To encourage you to stay active, the Oura app can remind you to get moving after 50 minutes of inactivity.
Unfortunately, the Oura doesn’t offer a way to track your workouts in real time. For it to take your workouts into account in your activity and recovery metrics, you’ll either need to link your Apple Health or Google Fit account so sessions you track with a different device are automatically imported, or manually add them in the Oura app after the fact. When manually adding a workout, you can select the type (there are many options, including everything from badminton and baseball to yardwork and yoga), your start time, duration, and intensity (easy, moderate, or hard).
While its activity and workout features are pretty basic, the Oura shines as a sleep tracker. When you wear it to bed, it automatically tracks your light, deep, and REM sleep, as well as your total time asleep, time in bed, how long it takes you to fall asleep, and disturbances throughout the night.
Overnight, it also tracks your respiratory rate (the number of breaths you take per minute), resting heart rate (the number of times your heart beats per minute while you’re at rest), heart rate variability (HRV, or the variation in milliseconds between each heartbeat), and body temperature variations (whether you’re running hotter or cooler compared with previous days and weeks, and by how much).
HRV and body temperature are two advanced metrics not available on all other wearables. A growing number of high-end smartwatches and fitness trackers, including the Apple Watch and Fitbit Sense, offer HRV readings. Body temperature measurements are less common, but also available on the Sense.
The company explains that your HRV can range from less than 20 to more than 100, and in general, a high HRV is a sign of good general health and fitness, while a low HRV can indicate stress or overtraining. The ring measures your temperature at night, when your body is least affected by environmental and lifestyle factors, and tracks deviations from your baseline. It might, for instance, say that you’re 0.1 degree hotter than usual. A sudden, sharp rise in your body temperature can, of course, signal that you’re coming down with something.
At the bottom of the Oura app, there are tabs for Home, Readiness, Sleep, and Activity. In Home, you can quickly see your progress toward your activity goal; your daily activity, readiness, and sleep scores (which can all range from zero to 100); bedtime guidance; and any activities you have manually logged or that have been automatically imported from your Apple Health or Google Fit account.
Your activity score measures how active you were that day and over the past week. When calculating this score, the Oura takes into account your total inactive time, move alerts over the past 24 hours, how often you’ve reached your daily activity goal over the past week, training frequency (how many times you’ve tracked medium to high-intensity workouts over the past seven days), training volume (the duration of your medium- to high-intensity workouts over the past seven days), and recovery time (the number of days you’ve taken it easy over the past week).
Your readiness score takes into account a number of factors to measure your overall recovery and ability to perform at your peak. These factors include your resting heart rate, body temperature, heart rate variability balance (how your HRV trends over the past two weeks compare with your three-month average), recovery index (how long it takes for your resting heart rate to stabilize during the night), your previous night’s sleep as well as the past two weeks, and your activity the previous day and over the past few days.
After one bad night’s sleep, the Oura app said my readiness had started to decline, and suggested I take a moment to reflect on my past few days, asking, “Is there something you could do differently today to stop the downward trend?” Indeed, I had let my dog Bradley sleep in my bed the night before, and he woke me up around 3 a.m. by trying to snuggle directly on top of me, after which I had a hard time getting back to sleep. Seeing this note in the Oura app was a bit of a wake-up call; the next night, I made Bradley stay in his own bed, and I slept much better.
Your sleep score measures how well you slept overall, taking into account factors such as your total sleep time, efficiency (the percentage of time you actually spent asleep after going to bed), disturbances and restlessness throughout the night, how much time you spent in the REM and deep sleep phases, how long it took you to fall asleep, and the time of day you slept.
The app also shows an individual value or score for each of the activity, readiness, and sleep metrics listed above, and you can click into each one for an explanation. It also offers daily, weekly, and monthly trend graphs for each metric, as well as your overall activity, sleep, and readiness scores. I’m happy to report that in the month that I’ve been using the Oura, my average sleep score increased from 64 to 72 and my readiness score increased from 70 to 71. My activity score decreased from 98 to 96, but I think that’s more of a reflection of me forgetting to manually record my workouts in the Oura app than an actual decrease in my activity level.
Taking a Moment to Reduce Stress
The Oura offers a feature called Moment, in partnership with meditation services Aura and Oak, that’s designed to help you de-stress and practice mindful breathing. There are a handful of guided meditation sessions from Aura and Oak in the app, as well as a feature that lets you practice unguided, for as long as you want, with a soundscape or in silence.
While taking a Moment, the Oura measures your resting heart rate and other metrics depending on the duration of the session, like your HRV trends and skin temperature variation, so you can see how it impacts your health. Afterward, it asks you to rate how you feel (much better, better, the same, worse, or much worse than usual).
The app also lets you manually record various health-impacting events in the app, and the date and time they occurred, including everything from alcohol or caffeine intake to CBD use or COVID-19 infection.
A Different Kind of Fitness Tracker
The Oura Ring is a welcome alternative to wrist-worn fitness trackers—it’s far more discreet, comfortable to wear 24/7, and only needs to be charged once per week. Starting at $299, we wish it delivered more when it comes to keeping tabs on workouts and activity, though it’s terrific for monitoring your sleep and offering insights into your health. If you’re open to a more traditional fitness tracker, we suggest checking out the attractive Garmin Vivoactive 4, our Editors’ Choice in this price range, which also delivers insights about your breathing, sleep, and stress, in addition to a range of excellent fitness and smartwatch features. The Apple Watch SE is another good alternative if you’re looking for a smartwatch, and it costs $20 less than the Oura. That said, wearable tech is meant to be worn, and if a ring is a more appealing form factor to you than a wristband, the Oura might just be the right tracker for you.