A young woman in workout clothes wears a smart watch on her wrist that measures heart rate variabilityYou may think that your heart rate is constant and exact. It’s a perfect timekeeper that beats at a consistent pace, right?

On the contrary, your heart rate varies by tiny amounts – tenths of seconds. And it’s not as precise as you may assume, which is where heart rate variability (HRV) comes in. Your HRV is a useful measure in calculating and understanding your overall health and well-being.

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Heart rate variability (HRV) is the distinct irregularity in your heartbeat. These irregularities are typical and shouldn’t alarm you, as they’re signs of a healthy heart. However, there are differences in high vs. low HRV.

A high HRV shows that you are well-rested, relaxed, and in a rather unstressed state of mind. Conversely, a low HRV, as in a perfectly regular heartbeat, does not indicate relaxation. Instead, it may be a sign of overtraining or stress that’s affecting your health.

Measuring HRV

Wearable technology is one way that you can measure your HRV. In the past, wearable technology included heart rate data that could tell you beats per minute, but that was about it. But as technology has changed and advanced, you may have noticed an HRV feature on your device. As with any data tracking, it’s helpful to look at a period of time and identify trends. Beyond wearable tech, some health and fitness centers now offer specialized services that focus on biofeedback tracking and training to improve your health and wellness.

Improving Your HRV

As mentioned before, a low HRV indicates high stress or your body’s desire for rest. If you find that your HRV needs a boost, try these actions to work on increasing it to a healthier level:

  • Rest
  • Avoid overtraining
  • Get plenty of sleep
  • Balance your workday
  • Recognize and manage stress
  • Practice breathing exercises
  • Meditate

Adopting these methods can help increase your HRV, but it takes some time and patience.

If you are looking to start back up with your health and fitness goals, the YMCA of Greater Whittier is here for you! Contact us to learn more about the programs we’re offering that will get you back on track.