Heart rates are easy. We can understand how our heart beats—and counting how many times it does a minute is simple enough, but measuring the slight differences in time between each beat to find heart rate variability? That sounds like complex medical work.
And in fact, monitoring heart rate variability has been a crucial part of how doctors examine their patients for decades.
Using the same clinical grade PPG sensors, Biostrap allows consumers the same insights as the professional medical community. Researchers have identified Heart Rate Variability as a biometric that lends great insight into our overall health, indicating everything from stress levels to fitness performance.
Understanding the role of heart rate variability in a healthier lifestyle requires a general knowledge of what the biometric is and how it affects our bodies.
High Versus Low
Although it may sound counterintuitive, a low variance—a steady, consistent pattern of heart beats—is not the healthiest state for your body to be operating in. Higher interval variance, or significant changes in time between beats, means your heart is working in a healthy, sporadic way. Your body constantly needs blood and nutrients, but a healthy heart pumps only when necessary, fluctuating in activity as the body calls for it.
Generally speaking, higher heart rate variability is indicative of the control of the parasympathetic system, one of the two sides of the autonomic nervous system. This system is responsible for regulating the body's unconscious actions including sexual arousal, salivation, and digestion––often called the “rest and digest” system.
Low variance in between heart beats, or a consistent heartbeat, indicates a dominance of the sympathetic system. This system's primary process is to stimulate the body's fight-or-flight response but, when experienced without a threat, is signaling stress, overtraining, and inflammation.
Having access to all this insightful data packaged neatly for you inside a mobile app is great, but how can it lead to a healthier lifestyle?
For one, your fitness routine can benefit immensely from simply exercising when your body is rested. An intense workout can keep your heart rate variability low for days as your body recovers. Rather than putting yourself at risk of overtraining, which can lead to muscle damage or mood imbalances, heart rate variance data can keep you active at the most opportune of times.
Along with fitness benefits, being able to quantify how your heart is affecting your mood gives you extra insight into your well-being. Mark Sisson, an award-winning author and fitness expert, talks about how, after getting a “high-stress” warning from heart rate variance data, he’s able to actively and subconsciously calm himself and relax.
In general, the benefits and possibilities of monitoring HRV are well documented.
Luckily, taking your health into your hands has never been easier!