What is Heart Rate Variability and Why do I recommend measuring it?

Dr Agnes Ryu

We often assume if something is popular or branded as “healthy” that it must be good for us. However, our nervous systems each have unique needs and signals. Few of us intuitively know what activities or lifestyle choices make our bodies thrive versus tax our systems. How can we learn to decode our body’s messages to make the best daily decisions for our well-being?

That’s where regularly tracking your heart rate variability (HRV) comes in handy. HRV provides an objective data stream that cuts through the clutter of societal trends and marketing claims. By tuning into this metric daily and over time, you gain key insights to fuel, challenge, and most importantly – recover – in sync with your physiology.

Here’s a crash course on how HRV can transform you into an expert on your body’s needs:


What is HRV and Why Does it Matter?

HRV refers to the natural variation in time between each heartbeat. It reflects the dynamic interplay between your sympathetic (“fight or flight”) and parasympathetic (“rest and digest”) nervous systems.

Like the gear shifts on a car, your nervous system recalibrates constantly in response to physical demands, stressors, sleep patterns, and more. Higher HRV suggests your body can adapt seamlessly to these shifts. Lower HRV indicates your system is strained and overloaded.

Tracking these subtle beat-to-beat fluctuations provides a detailed snapshot of your nervous system health and resilience day-to-day. But why does HRV matter for the average person?

HRV Enables You to…

  • Optimize your workout regimen – know when to push it vs. take a breather
  • Assess recovery needs – that tough training session may require more downtime than you realized
  • Enhance sleep quality – time bedtime and wake time to sync with your body’s rhythms
  • Manage daily stress levels – see how work, family, and other obligations are impacting you
  • Detect underlying cardiac issues – low HRV can signify health problems
  • Prevent burnout – monitor your overall physiological load so you don’t overdo it
  • Boost productivity – understand when you’re primed for focused work vs. need a break

The list goes on. Ultimately, tracking HRV arms you with the data you need to make optimal choices for your unique body – rather than follow generic guidelines.


How to Track Your HRV

Monitoring your HRV daily is simple with wearable devices like Apple Watch, Oura ring, Polar chest straps, and more. These tools record and analyse the time between each heartbeat around the clock.

Ideally, measure your HRV first thing in the morning to establish a baseline and spot day-to-day variances. You can also check it pre- and post-workout to gauge nervous system readiness and recovery needs.

Over time, the patterns will speak volumes about your body’s rhythms and health status. They’ll reveal which fuels, activities, intensities, and recovery methods make you thrive – no guesswork required.


Let Your Body Take the Lead

Tuning into your physiology’s signals through HRV tracking can transform your relationship with your health. No more following generic guidelines or trying the latest fad. Instead, you’re equipped to confidently craft lifestyle choices based on what your nervous system truly needs.

So ditch the guesswork, stop following the herd, and let your body take the lead. Harness the power of HRV to become your system’s expert and thrive each day.


Recommended YouTube

Heart Rate Variability: Harnessing Your Own Personal Superpower | Inna Khazan | TEDxBostonCollege

How to Improve Your HRV | Dr. Andy Galpin & Dr. Andrew Huberman

Agnes Ryu

Agnes Ryu

Dr. Ryu is a clinician and biochemist specializing in integrative medicine. Her clinical interests include fertility, hormones, metabolism, healthy ageing, menopause, and natural breast cancer care. As an integrative practitioner, Dr. Ryu aims to uncover the root causes of health issues and strives to empower patients with the knowledge and tools to take charge of their own health.

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