What is Heart Rate Variability and How Can You Improve It?
Our heart beat is not regular like the ticking of clock beating once every second. A healthy heart beat is irregular (see the picture). This irregularity is desirable and an indicator of how ready the body is to adapt to stress. This stress could be bad like a fight with your boss or good like a promotion. When HRV is high, you can handle the incoming stress. When HRV is low you are less adaptable and less able to handle the stress.
HRV can be a measure of our autonomic nervous system and the balance between our parasympathetic and sympathetic branches. The parasympathetic branch is our “Rest & Digest” and correlates with a high HRV. The sympathetic branch is our “Fight or Flight” and correlates with a low HRV.
Heart Rate Variability is an indicator of the state of our health & fitness, recovery, and readiness. This makes it a valuable tool to monitor when exercising. A high HRV indicates a day to attempt that PR. A low HRV should lead to an active recovery day. Research correlates HRV to disease risk and progression, morbidity and mortality, biological age and health, physical performance, and mental cognition. Our favorite tool to monitor HRV is the Oura Ring but you can also monitor yours with a heart rate monitor and various apps.