Knowing where your HRV stacks up can help you determine your starting point relative to the “norm”. It is important to note that comparing your HRV to others can be tricky. There are many factors such as age, health, gender, and fitness level to account for. HRV is also sensitive to changes in physical and mental health. Therefore, when seeing where your HRV values stack up, it is best to compare yourself against people similar to you.
Generally, a low HR indicates rest, while a high HR corresponds with exercise or exertion.
While heart rate focuses on the average beats per minute, heart rate variability (HRV) measures the specific changes in time (or variability) between successive heart beats. The time between beats is measured in milliseconds (ms) and is called an “R-R interval” or “inter-beat interval (IBI).”
While heart rate focuses on the average beats per minute, heart rate variability (HRV) measures the specific changes in time (or variability) between successive heart beats.
Generally, a low HRV (or less variability in the heart beats) indicates that the body is under stress from exercise, psychological events, or other internal or external stressors. Higher HRV (or greater variability between heart beats) usually means that the body has a strong ability to tolerate stress or is strongly recovering from prior accumulated stress.
At rest, a high HRV is generally favorable and a low HRV is unfavorable. When in an active state, lower relative HRV is generally favorable while a high HRV can be unfavorable.
HRV is actually an umbrella term for many different calculations and analysis methods. When applying these calculations correctly, the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS) can be precisely measured. The ANS is tied to every automatic process in the body and comprises of two main branches that control the body’s stress and recovery processes. It regulates blood sugar, body temperature, blood pressure, sweat, digestion, and much more. Using HRV to gain an understanding of the state of your ANS at any given moment is a huge advantage when tackling specific goals, identifying obstacles, or measuring progress.
Using HRV to gain an understanding of the state of your ANS at any given moment is a huge advantage when tackling specific goals, identifying obstacles, or measuring progress.
The Pros and Cons of Heart Rate Variability
The most precise non-invasive measurement of Autonomic Nervous System activity (responsible for recovery and the body’s response to stress among other things) integrates the nervous system, cardiovascular system, and respiratory systems. Able to detect physical, digestive, environmental, psychological and other stressors. Can be measured by affordable consumer-grade heart rate monitors. Only takes 2 minutes per day for 95% of the benefit. Can be used to “train” the brain and nervous system to operate at peak performance with live biofeedback.
Difficult to measure during exercise or while moving (though unnecessary usually) Accuracy requirements limit the use of some trendy wearable HR monitors. Sometimes presented as a “magic bullet”. Various measurements of HRV can be confusing if presented improperly
When To Use Heart Rate
Heart rate and heart rate variability are often considered similar metrics, but they have completely different uses when used correctly.
Heart rate is best used during exercise. It is a great tool for training the cardiovascular system or monitoring the effects of training on the cardiovascular system in real time. Heart rate is best used during exercise.
When To Use Heart Rate Variability
HRV is best used during a rested state (usually first thing in the morning or during rested activities such as meditation). It is a great tool for understanding overall health, resilience, and ability to tolerate stress from all sources.
HRV can be used as a daily check-in with the body to determine its readiness to tolerate stress on a given day. In this regard, HRV is commonly used to optimize and individualize training programs based on a person’s’ readiness or recovery state. Also, HRV can be used to determine how various lifestyle choices affect health and performance by trending HRV and the correlated events over time.