As Source Code Meditation has revolutionized my overall wellbeing, I find it empirically important to objectively measure specific indicators that show a positive progression in my health. I will be analyzing my physical strain and recovery using my new WHOOP watch, which helps me to monitor my RHR(Resting heart rate), HRV(Heart rate variability), respiratory rate, and other physical data. From the data gathered, I will be able to conclude whether or not Source Code Meditation was able to help me to enhance my physical health.
Heart rate variability, or HRV for short, is a measure of your autonomic nervous system that is widely considered one of the best objective metrics for physical fitness and determining your body’s readiness to perform.
Although HRV manifests as a function of your heart rate, it actually originates from your nervous system. Your autonomic nervous system, which controls the involuntary aspects of your physiology, has two branches, parasympathetic (deactivating) and sympathetic (activating).
The parasympathetic branch (often referred to as “rest and digest”) handles inputs from internal organs, like digestion or your fingernails and hair growing. It causes a decrease in heart rate.
The sympathetic branch (often called “fight or flight”) reflects responses to things like stress and exercise, and increases your heart rate.
Heart rate variability comes from these two competing branches simultaneously sending signals to your heart. If your nervous system is balanced, your heart is constantly being told to beat slower by your parasympathetic system, and beat faster by your sympathetic system. This causes a fluctuation in your heart rate: HRV.
WHY IS HRV A SIGN OF FITNESS?
When you have high heart rate variability, it means that your body is responsive to both sets of inputs (parasympathetic and sympathetic). This is a sign that your nervous system is balanced, and that your body is very capable of adapting to its environment and performing at its best.
On the other hand, if you have low heart rate variability, one branch is dominating (usually the sympathetic) and sending stronger signals to your heart than the other. There are times when this is a good thing–like if you’re running a race you want your body to focus on allocating resources to your legs (sympathetic) as opposed to digesting food (parasympathetic).
However, if you’re not doing something active, low HRV indicates your body is working hard for some other reason (maybe you’re fatigued, dehydrated, stressed, or sick and need to recover) which leaves fewer resources available to dedicate towards exercising, competing, giving a presentation at work, etc.
To look at it another way, the less one branch is dominating the other, the more room there is for the sympathetic (activating) branch to be able to come in and dominate, which is why high HRV suggests you’re fit and ready to go.
HEART RATE VARIABILITY TRENDS ARE WHAT MATTERS
When you begin using a heart rate variability monitor, you may notice that your HRV varies greatly from day to day. This can be attributed to the many factors that affect it (more on this shortly), and is perfectly normal. If your friend has a higher HRV than you do today, that is not an indication that they are more fit than you are.
Rather than comparing your heart rate variability to others, a more practical use of HRV is to follow your own trends. For example, if you’re taking steps to improve your fitness and overall health, over time you should see a gradual increase in your average heart rate variability.