If you follow me on Instagram, you have probably seen me post about my HRV (via my OURA ring data). I often assume people know what I know (whenever it comes to fitness/health), and in speaking with a few women at the gym, it’s come to my attention that a lot of people don’t know what HRV is, what theirs should be, or the importance. I have gone down a few rabbit holes to figure out why mine is so high (which is what you want) and ways to improve yours if yours is low.
What is HRV
“HRV (heart rate variability) is simply a measure of the variation in time between each heartbeat. This variation is controlled by a primitive part of the nervous system called the autonomic nervous system (ANS). It works behind the scenes, automatically regulating our heart rate, blood pressure, breathing, and digestion, among other key tasks. The ANS is subdivided into two large components: the sympathetic and the parasympathetic nervous system, also known as the fight-or-flight mechanism and the relaxation response.
The ANS provides signals to the hypothalamus, which then instructs the rest of the body either to stimulate or to relax different functions. It responds not only to a poor night of sleep or that sour interaction with your boss but also to the exciting news that you got engaged or to that delicious healthy meal you had for lunch. Our body handles all kinds of stimuli, and life goes on. However, if we have persistent instigators such as stress, poor sleep, unhealthy diet, dysfunctional relationships, isolation or solitude, and lack of exercise, this balance may be disrupted, and your fight-or-flight response can shift into overdrive”. (1)
Normal Ranges for HRV
The most important thing to understand about HRV is your TREND is more important than your number. We want to be within the healthy range, but if you had the choice between consistently low versus up into range and down out of range, you would like the former. There are a variety of dangers associated with a poor HRV.
“HRV is highly individual, so you should compare your HRV to your own averages over time to gain a sense of what’s normal for you,” says Marco Altini, an HRV expert, data scientist, and Oura advisor. “Plus, keep in mind that it’s normal to see daily and seasonal fluctuations in your HRV.” (2)
As a general rule of thumb:
- Higher HRV is associated with rest-and-digest, general fitness, and good recovery
- Lower HRV is associated with fight-or-flight, stress, or illness
Ways to Improve HRV
As mentioned above, a low HRV doesn’t necessarily means you are unhealthy or unfit- it simply mean your body is stuck in fight or flight, is fighting an illness, you may have a vitamin deficiency, etc.
As soon as I started posting my HRV- the questions started pouring in on how mine was so high (while pregnant, it was 75-95 and climbed up to 120 a night on average after having Dean and has remained that high). I had a few women in the gym ask me how I got mine so high, and to be honest- I never really had given it any thought until they brought it up. I just assumed it was normal. So I started wracking my brain and diving into a ton of research on improving HRV (you know, like actual tips outside of “reduce your stress”).
My research led me down a few paths, and I also had a few “aha” moments myself.
- Managing stress- LOL ok
- Exercise at the right intensity- most of us already do that
- Sleep consistently- ok you’re not a parent
- Drink more water and less alcohol- alcohol plays a big factor- use that tip
- Breathe deep- second LOL
- Don’t eat too close to bed
- Oyster Pills: I never put two and two together until the other night when I was discussing oyster pills; I realized they are great for cardiovascular health. As HRV is the measure of the time in between beats, there had to be a correlation. I was right. Oysters are extremely high in vitamin B12. What are people with a poor HRV deficient in? Vitamin B12.
- Fish Oil: Per a published medical journal: “The consumption of omega-3 polyunsaturated fatty acids (n-3 PUFAs) has been reported to decrease resting heart rate (HR) and increase heart rate variability (HRV)” (3)
- Glutamine: Per a published medical journal, “Emerging evidence indicates that l-glutamine (Gln) plays a fundamental role in cardiovascular physiology and pathology” (4)
- Red light therapy: red light has been shown in numerous studies to reduce cardiovascular aging and overall improvement in the cardiovascular system
- HRT: I could talk until I am blue in the face regarding HRT and how it improves every aspect of your life, but my other blog can do a much better job at the benefits. When hormones are balanced, our bodies can react to stress better- therefore- improving your HRV
- HIIT training: I personally can attest to my HRV improving after incorporating 2 hours a week of HIIT training through my alpha conditioning class
How to Track HRV
HRV is tracked at night via a smart fitness device (IE: OURA, whoop, Apple watch, fitbit, etc). I wear an OURA at night and can only speak to its validity. I have an Apple watch but do not wear it at night. Josh wears an Apple watch during the day and a whoop at night- he does not how the OURA ring fits him but I love how it fits me- it’s all personal preference in finding what fitness tracker is going to work best for YOU.
As a side note- OURA allows you to submit ring purchase, shipping, and taxes for reimbursement through HSA/FSA.
BLOG: OURA RING V APPLE WATCH
I hope you found this blog helpful! I learned so much while researching and writing it, and I truly hope it helps in your health and fitness journey! Please note, some of the links above are affiliate links. Your support with my affiliate links allows me to keep this blog ad free- I truly appreciate your support if you choose to shop through my links!