Heart rate variability (HRV) is an essential sign of a person’s overall health and fitness, despite the fact that it is frequently ignored. The measure in question has been present for some time, but only recently has it begun to attract more attention. This is because HRV is becoming more and more accessible to the general public. This means that it is no longer only used by doctors and fitness experts.
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What exactly is HRV?
When you take your pulse, you will get a reading that is expressed in beats per minute (bpm). For most people, this number falls anywhere between 60 and 80 when they are at rest. In general, your normal pulse rate will decrease as you become more physically fit. The reason for this is that regular exercise causes the heart to enlarge, become stronger, and become more effective at its job of pumping blood throughout the body.
However, the rhythm of your heartbeat is not consistent at all times. The distance between each heartbeat is never exactly the same. Now we come to the role that HRV plays. To put it another way, it analyzes the variability in the amount of time that passes between heartbeats.
Both the sympathetic and the parasympathetic branches of your nervous system are involved in this process. These are the parts of your autonomic nervous system that control your breathing, heart rate, digestion, organ function, and blood pressure.
The instinct to either fight or run away is associated with the sympathetic component of the neurological system. It gives your body the energy it needs to get things done when it’s needed. The parasympathetic system is the counterpart to the sympathetic system. After being startled by the sympathetic nervous system, it enables your body to relax and recover more quickly. The hypothalamus is the part of your brain that is in charge of regulating all of these aspects of your body. It sends impulses to your body, which can either stimulate it or relax it, depending on what the signals say.
The heart rate variability (HRV) test is a method for evaluating the adaptability of one’s autonomic nervous system, or the rate at which it can switch from one condition to another. There are a lot of things that can play a role in this, such as whether or not you’ve had enough sleep, how healthy your food is, how active your social life is, how stressed you are, and so on.
Making Sense of HRV Data
The American Heart Association reports that the average HRV is 59.3, so keep that in mind. However, this differs depending on the person’s age as well as their gender.
In contrast to your heart rate at rest, your heart rate variability (HRV) should be increased. In spite of the fact that it defies common sense, a normal HRV should not have a rhythm that is absolutely flawless. You did understand what you read. When your heart rate variability (HRV) is high, research has shown that your body demonstrates higher stress resilience and overall wellness. A lower biological age and greater cardiovascular fitness are typically associated with a higher HRV. This is because a higher HRV indicates a healthier heart.
On the other hand, having a low HRV (meaning there is minimal change between beats) signifies having less resilience. When you are overloaded with stress, sick, have not slept well, or have been exercising a bit too much, you will have low values. Other causes of low scores include not getting enough sleep. At this point, it might be beneficial to give yourself some time to recover. Recuperation is the prerequisite for performance. Getting better is where a lot of the improvement is made.
Because your HRV will change from day to day, a few low numbers shouldn’t cause any cause for alarm. Every one of us experiences both good and bad days. However, if your HRV is continuously low, this could be a sign that there are issues with your health. If this is the case, it is best to seek medical attention.
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Wearable Devices for the Measurement of HRV
On an electrocardiogram (EKG), the intervals of time between R waves are what are used to quantify HRV. This is merely a more technical way of stating that you are comparing the intervals between heartbeats. The good news is that you can measure your HRV on your own, without the help of a doctor or an electrocardiogram.
This is something that can be measured by a lot of different fitness trackers and sports watches. For instance, the majority of the most recent generation of fitness trackers produced by Garmin record your HRV in order to keep track of how stressed you are at all times. Some sports watches even go one step further and determine how much strain your workout is putting on your body. After that, they will tell you when it is okay to start exercising again. To do this, a lot of different watches, like high-end sports watches and cycling computers made by Garmin, use measurements from Firstbeat.
In addition, there are apps that may be downloaded. Some of them, such as the Elite HRV and HRV+, do not cost anything to download. Because fitness trackers and sports watches don’t send raw HRV readings, you can’t use them together.
Wearables that can record and share the relevant metrics are required for this purpose. The following are some fantastic alternatives that broadcast HRV in its raw form. We’ve added a couple more devices to the mix, and while these ones don’t broadcast values, they do provide you access to the raw data through their own mobile apps for smartphones.
The H10 is now one of the greatest solutions available to people who are looking for a dependable heart-rate monitor and are willing to have one strapped to their chests.
It takes all of the advantages of the best-selling H7 and adds to them: enhanced precision, an improved non-slip construction, the option to use it on two devices simultaneously, and on-board memory. Also, let’s not forget about the water resistance, which comes with live data for devices that are compatible. If you connect all of this to the Polar Beat app for iOS and Android, you will suddenly have a personal trainer guiding you through your workouts in real time, making sure that you are in the appropriate zone for your heart rate to accomplish your objectives.
The RHYTHM24 is a heart rate monitor that may be worn on either the upper arm or the forearm. It has a flexible polycarbonate and silicone hybrid construction, and it has a pliable elastic strap. Because of this, it may be worn comfortably and is much simpler to put on than a chest strap would be.
The device is equipped with the most recent iteration of Valencell’s PerformTek technology, which utilizes both green and yellow optical sensors to read your heart rate through your skin. By combining these two elements, higher precision is achieved across all different types of skin.
The RHYTHM24 is an advance on its predecessor in a number of ways, including the fact that it still supports communication through Bluetooth Smart and ANT+. This is a big improvement over the previous model, which only lasted for eight hours, and the name of the new device suggests that it will now last for twenty-four hours between charges. It is also equipped with a number of sports modes, in addition to being waterproof and having internal memory.
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Wahoo TICKR X
The Tickr X is the most sophisticated of the three different heart rate training torso bands that Wahoo offers. In addition to giving you information about your heart rate, the device can track the number of calories you burn, how you run, how far you run indoors, how fast you spin, and how many times you lift weights.
You can leave your cellphone behind because its internal memory can keep up to 16 hours’ worth of heart rate data, and you can sync the two devices at a later time. Thanks to its ANT+ and Bluetooth 4.0 capabilities, the Tickr X can connect to GPS watches, iPhones, Android devices, and a wide range of third-party applications.
Suunto Smart Belt
It is true that size does matter. At the very least, if you ask Suunto, it does. The manufacturer claims that their device is the smallest heart rate sensor that is compatible with Bluetooth Smart on the current market. The sensor module is quite small, weighing only 40 grams; the strap width is only 30 millimeters.
When used for running, the tracker can provide real-time data on the user’s heart rate as well as the number of calories burned. Because it is resistant to water up to 30 meters deep, you can even use it while you are swimming. When you get back to dry land, you should sync the device to the software you installed on your Android or iOS phone in order to do post-workout analysis.
Polar Ignite (Vantage series)
The Ignite is a GPS fitness watch that is promoted as an adaptable training tool for a number of sports and activities. Its name comes from the fact that it may be worn on the wrist. The most notable feature that sets it apart from other similar products is Polar’s use of sophisticated sleep analysis, nightly recovery insights, and individualized and adaptable training assistance. These provide in-depth insights into the status of your body by taking into consideration the parameters of your sleep as well as the measurements of your heart rate and recuperation.
In addition to this, you will also receive something that Polar refers to as a “Nightly Recharge.” This investigates how well you slept as well as how soon your autonomic nervous system returned to a more normal state throughout the first few hours of your sleep. Your daily activity statistics are linked to the information, so you can determine from it whether you should relax for the day or continue working out as usual. In addition to this, the statistics will spew out your raw HRV data.
Based on our examination of Ignite, we discovered that all of this operates really smoothly. If, on the other hand, you want to get a watch that is capable of tracking a number of different sports at once, one of the models from the Vantage series might be sufficient. These watches are more expensive than the Ignite, but they offer more data on both performance and training. The Vantage V2 is the most up-to-date model in the lineup, and it was just launched earlier this month.
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As a result of a recent software upgrade, a number of different Fitbit devices can now display raw HRV data. That is some encouraging news. The bad news is that you won’t be able to see this unless you pay for a premium subscription first.
This may be yours for a monthly fee of $9.99 or an annual fee of $79.99. Before you get started, you might as well make use of the free trial period of ninety days that is offered to people who have never used premium before.
The Charge 3, Charge 4, Inspire HR, Inspire 2, Ionic, Versa range, and Sense are all examples of devices that are compatible with this standard. The Health Metrics dashboard has an extra tile that gives users access to the data in the premium version.
The maker of wearables, located in San Francisco, offers a diverse selection of well-known electronic products for purchase. If you already own a Fitbit, this could be a nice way to get your feet wet in the field of heart rate variability tracking (HRV).