Your heart signals are all to be taken seriously, but there is one that, more than others, is of paramount importance and has so far been overlooked by many: heart rate variability (HRV).
HRV is much more than a simple number: it represents an objective and non-invasive evaluation of your capacity to cope with physical and emotional stress.
Monitoring this parameter can help you to understand in a personalized way what can help you improve your resilience and endurance in the face of the pressures of life. With devices like the HRV Apple watch and here some of the best heart rate variability apps, monitoring this parameter has been made easy.
Here, we would discuss HRV, how to monitor it, and how it impacts our health. Read on!
What is HRV?
HRV allows us to have an estimate of the variations that occur between one beat and another of our hearts. The HRV analysis is based on the calculation of the interval between one pulse and another, measured in milliseconds (ms).
Heart rate variability can show us a lot about how the heart and brain communicate with each other. For example, the hypothalamus is a part of the brain that regulates emotions, sex drives, childbirth, body temperature, and heart rate.
HRV is a measure of the influence of the autonomic nervous system (ANS). The ANS controls the functions related to the internal organs and acts by maintaining over time, within physiological limits, parameters such as blood pressure, cardiac output, respiration, body temperature, and acid-base balance.
The autonomic nervous system is in turn composed of two other systems:
• Sympathetic nervous system (SNS) – also known as the fight or flight system. It is most active in moments of stress and danger. The SNS prepares the body to face difficulties by increasing the heart rate, gas exchange, blood pressure, mental activity, etc.
• The parasympathetic nervous (PNS) – is the rest and digest system and is most active when you are calm and at rest. The PNS determines the decrease in heart rate, the constriction of the coronary vessels, and bronchoconstriction.
In most physiological conditions, the activation of one of these branches is accompanied by the inhibition of the other, suggesting the concept of sympathovagal balance.
The task of the ANS is to make sure that all systems work in harmony without negatively affecting the state of health.
Monitor Your Heart Rates with Apple watch
One exciting feature of the Apple wristwatch is the heart rate sensor. This heart rate variability watch uses photoplethysmography technology and infrared light to measure heartbeats. The photoplethysmography makes use of green LED lights and light-sensitive photodiodes to track the number of heartbeats.
The Apple Watch measures heart rate at rest while walking or exercising as long as it is on your wrist. The result is then sent to your health app.
Monitoring heart variability is better than only Heart Rate
Heart rate variability (HRV) is a new method for assessing the effects of stress. However, the most frequent errors in data collection and interpretation of HRV depend on the absence of standard procedures and conditions that can be reproduced over time. In fact, the moments of the day in which this value reliably communicates information relating to the ANS and its influence on the heart are those with the most negligible impact, for example, movement, digestion, caffeine intake, etc.
As soon as you wake up, you find the perfect conditions of rest and fasting to perform an accurate test in just a few minutes. There are several tools for this mode; it is possible to opt for a wearable biometric device like the HRV Apple watch or an app like Welltory.
Whichever method you choose, ensure you take measurements for at least five days a week so that you can assess the long-term trend.
Stress and overtraining
Heart rate variability can be an effective and innovative tool when quantifying training load but must be appropriately interpreted. Among the positive aspects, it should be noted that factors such as sleep or stress influence HRV, which should also be considered when programming training.
The HRV could be very useful when detecting overtraining and which is closely related to strain and fatigue. However, this cardiac parameter varies. Therefore, the measurements must be standardized and always done in the same way and at the same time of day. It is advisable to check first thing in the morning so that there would be less external influence and thus, be able to adapt the training according to the data that we have obtained from the measurement.
Practical app for HRV
You can monitor HRV using heart rate monitors, which have been validated and have good sensitivity and are compatible with a greater number of apps. Mobile apps like Welltory are straightforward and comfortable to use, and they will provide us with basic information. These apps provide heart rate and blood pressure data and also monitor recovery levels. Welltory app is professional stress and recovery tracking tool for a healthy lifestyle.
Why HRV Matters for Fitness and Health
Knowing the physiological concept of HRV, it is worth highlighting its practical application in fitness. Your HRV pattern is a representation of how much stress you are under. It is a powerful indicator of overtraining states in periods where the load is excessive in trained subjects. Thus, a new training program must be generated to recover and maintain good health and performance.
Not only the physical state can be measured with the variability of the heart rate, but also the psychological state of the person.
High HRV is an indication that you are living a healthy lifestyle. It is a parameter used mainly by physical trainers. Still, more and more devices can detect this variability to inform, at the user level, of their state of health in terms of the heart-nervous system relationship
What to Do If You Are Feeling Stressed
HRV can help you keep track of your body’s stress levels. During stress, HRV decreases, and it increases as we recover from stress. So to help manage stress, there has to be a balance between leisure time and work time. In addition, there should be sufficient rest as this leads to recovery of anxiety. Also, an excellent way to overcome stress is to incorporate exercise into your daily routine.
The variability of the heart rate is a parameter that was hardly unknown until a few years ago, only used by the medical environment and without sports purposes.
In the last decade, due to its use in high performance, devices like the Apple wristwatch have been developed that allow users to get closer to a greater knowledge of the cardiac parameters that define the health of our vital organs.