Guide to understanding and using Heart Rate Variability (HRV) on your Apple Watch 

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Heart Rate Variability is an important metric that is often ignored by many Apple Watch users. HRV can provide you good guidance around your health, For example, if you’re taking steps to improve your fitness and overall health, over time you should see a gradual increase in your average heart rate variability.

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A downward trend in your HRV over several days is worth paying attention to. This could be a sign that you’re training too hard, not sleeping enough, getting sick, eating poorly, encountering too much stress, or failing to hydrate properly.

Higher HRV has been found to be associated with reduced morbidity and mortality, and improved psychological well-being and quality of life

What is Heart Rate Variability?

Apple defines HRV (Heart rate variability) as a measure of the variation in the time interval between heartbeats. Your Apple Watch calculates HRV by using a standard deviation of beat-to-beat measurements (SDNN) , which are captured by the heart rate sensor.

How do you locate Heart Rate Variability information?

The best place to locate heart rate variability information is by using the Health app on your iPhone. The information is not readily available on your Apple Watch. Here’s how you can track down the details around your Heart Rate Variability (HRV).How to Analyze HRV (Heart Rate Variability) on your Apple Watch

  1. Launch Health App on your iPhone
  2. Tap on Browse tab at the bottom of your screen
  3. Next, Tap on Heart and choose Heart Rate Variability

This report shows you your HRV for the current day, week, month and year.

What is a good value for HRV?

The specific value of your individual HRV depends on many factors. HRV values can vary depending upon age, gender, sex, genetics and chronic health conditions. These are factors beyond your control. However there are other variables that are within your control which influence HRV. These are your Diet & Nutrition, Alcohol consumption, Sleep habits, stress, volume and intensity of your workouts and more.

The average HRV score is 59.3 (on a 1-100 scale) with 75% of users HRVs scores falling between 46.3 and 72.0. This is based on benchmark information from a third party app called Elite HRV.

A more detailed study shows you the results of Normal HRV by age and sex for a large sample that you can use.Normal HRV values by Gender and Age

According to Harvard Health Publishing, a higher HRV may indicate better cardiovascular fitness and a greater resilience to stress. 

Well-trained athletes and physically fit adults typically have a lower resting heart rate because their heart is more efficient at pumping blood through the body. This also means a higher HRV, since variability increases with a slower heart rate.

Where can I locate Resting Heart Rate on my Apple device?

From the Health App, tap on Browse and then choose Heart. You will find your Resting Heart rate details on the third row of the screen.How to check resting heart rate on Apple Watch

According to Mayo Clinic, A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats per minute.

How do I see the HRV increase or decrease between two specific dates on iPhone?

From the HRV graph on your Health App, If you want to see the HRV between specific days of the week or between specific dates in a month along with how much it increased or decreased between the date ranges, you will need to use two fingers and tap on the graph.

When you tap on any graph on Apple iPhone using two fingers, it typically shows you the average of the displayed chart. In this instance, since we are trying to find out the average HRV along with the increase/decrease between the two dates, place your fingers on both the dates and tap together.How to check HRV between two dates on your Apple device

Now it will display your Average HRV as well as the increase or decrease between the two selected dates or time intervals.

How can you improve your HRV?

Whoop provides an excellent guide on HRV in which it calls out the specific six things that one can do in order to improve Heart Rate Variability.

Intelligent Training. Don’t overdo it and push too hard for too many days without giving your body an opportunity to recover. One training aspect that seems to improve HRV according to many users is sprint training. Try implementing some form of sprint training/conditioning (at a maximum of 2-3 days a week). The sprint sessions need not be  long, but hard and fast. A good example sprint session could be: 4x100yd sprints w/ 45seconds rest (and try to sprint each 100yds in 20 seconds or less). The sprints need to be fast!

Hydration. The better hydrated you are, the easier it is for your blood to circulate and deliver oxygen and nutrients to your body. Aiming to drink close to one ounce of water per pound of bodyweight each day is a good goal.

Avoid Alcohol. One night of drinking may negatively affect your HRV for up to five days.

Steady Healthy Diet. Poor nutrition has adverse effects on HRV, as does eating at unexpected times.

Quality Sleep. It’s not just the amount of sleep you get that matters, but also the quality and consistency of your sleep. Going to bed and waking up at similar times each day is beneficial.

Auto-Regulation. In general, trying to get your body on a consistent schedule (in particular with sleep and eating) is helpful. Your body does things more efficiently when it knows what’s coming.

– Practice Resonant Breathing at least twice a day.

Best apps for tracking HRV on your Apple devices

Although there are many third-party apps that can integrate your Health data and provide you synopsis around your overall health, here are some of the apps that have made HRV a science and art when it comes to understanding its impact on your training and recovery.

  1. Welltory App on your Apple Watch and iPhone helps you track your performance and recovery. It uses HRV along with other heart rate information and your detailed workout information to perform analysis and produces insights that can guide you.HRV App for Apple watch
  2. HRV4Training – Heart Rate Variability (HRV) insights to help you quantify stress, better balance training and lifestyle, and improve performance. The app also provides explicit correlations that help you evaluate factors which are related to physiological changes, and help you adjust your lifestyle accordingly (a good one is typically sleeping quality).HRV analysis and training app on Apple
  3. EliteHRV is another handy HRV and training focussed app that provides you some benchmark information HRV focussed training.

How to locate Beat-to-Beat measurements that drive your HRV

From the HRV graph screen on the health app, scroll down to the bottom of the screen and locate ‘Show All Beat-to-Beat Measurements’. Once you tap on this, it will show you all the dates for which the B2B measurements have been sampled. HRV Beat to Beat Measurements on Apple Watch

Tap on a specific date from the ranges and scroll down to the bottom of your screen again and tap on ‘Beat-to-Beat Measurements’.  This will show you the Beats per minute details.

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In Summary, although genetic factors contribute to about 1/3 rd of your overall HRV level, you can still improve your individual HRV by improving your health, fitness, stress management and recovery skills. 

High HRV is generally considered an indicator of a healthy heart, and higher HRV has been found in many studies to be associated with reduced morbidity and mortality and improved psychological well-being and quality of life. 

References:

  1. https://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/heart-rate-variability-new-way-track-well-2017112212789
  2. https://www.whoop.com/thelocker/heart-rate-variability-hrv/
  3. https://medium.com/@altini_marco/how-to-make-sense-of-your-apple-watch-heart-rate-variability-hrv-data-89bf4a510438
  4. Resonant Breathing and impact of HRV Study

Last update on 2020-10-27 / Affiliate links / Images from Amazon Product Advertising API

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