Wednesday, 15 April 2015

Heart Rate Variability

Photography by Jade
One of the "tools" that I have been using recently is the measuring of my heart rate variability.
It's different from your actual heart rate, which is when you take your pulse and measure how many times it beats in a minute. Heart rate variability is  something commonly used amongst athletes to measure their performance and recovery rates.  

Lets say your heart actually beats 60 times a minute... you would naturally expect it to have a beat once every second right? Wrong. Most healthy hearts have a difference in length of time between beats. One beat could be 0.5 seconds apart, the next beat 0.8 seconds apart, the next 1.2 seconds apart. This is the variability bit. This is a good sign. It show that your body and your heart has a good level of adaption and can accommodate to different circumstances and stresses that are put upon them. So a high heart rate variability is a good thing.

In general  a high HRV is an indication of the parasympathetic nervous system response (Remember PEACE, relaxation, recovery..... from the previous post on the Autonomic Nervous System).  
If on the other hand your heart rate variability gets lower it shows that your body is having a hard time and is still under stress and need time to recover (sympathetic response). Elite Athletes use this to assess when to train and how hard to train and to get a feel for when they are sufficiently recovered for a harder workout. Even if you are no athlete this  information can be used as a means to assess your ability to handle stress and is a very useful, outwardly visible indication of your autonomic nervous systems functioning

I downloaded a bundle of four HRV measuring Apps from the apple store but I only use these 2 below. They work by putting your index finger over the light and camera on your iPhone?!

The HRV4Training App is  one of   the apps I use for measuring my base line HRV reading. I take a reading each morning when I wake up before I get out of bed and compare the scores from day to day. If my score is low..... I do less and try to do something relaxing or at least not taxing and stressful! If it's high then I go ahead and run or do something more energetic.

Stressed Out
Stressed out
The Stressed out app gives more of a percentage level of how stressed you are (not a HRV reading) and in this case a high % is bad and a low % is good. Currently I've been waking up at least %60 stressed .... not a good  thing after a supposed  restful sleep (I guess one of my next posts will be on sleep!) You can take a reading at different points through out the day to find out what you react to and what is relaxing. There is  also a relaxation exercise on there to practice lowering your %. It works like a biofeedback tool.

One caution.... heart rate variability can lower as you get more if you loaf around too much thinking you are resting, expecting your HRV to increase, the opposite may happen and your HRV may get lower. As always .. tools can be useful but they don't replace intuition and common sense so don't place all your trust in it!  (unless you have a proper heart rate monitor...and even then...)

As I type this I'm reading %28: relaxed.... not bad. Blogging must be good for me!
My 12 year old likes using the stressed out app as a game and as we sat round the dining table the other night we all took our readings and had a "competition" to see who could get the lowest %.... my son gloated that he had 0% stress.... but I'm not exactly certain that he was following the rules...  oh if that were so.... that would be an accomplishment!


There are lots of other HRV monitors  out there which are free (these ones cost me about 4 -5 pounds for a 4 bundle)
Why not go download  a free one and have a play around.

If you want to read a bit more go to:   
Photography by Jade

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