WTF is HRV?

So people have been talking about HRV, and you just realized they weren’t referring to the Honda. No worries – you’ve come to the right place. Here’s my shot at HRV for the people. I’ll attempt to not get too science-y and keep it to the things you care about.

What is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?


Many people find it surprising that their heart does not beat regularly like a metronome. In fact, the more variable your heart beats beat-to-beat, very often the less stressed your body is.

Brian Bolze, Core Wellness Co-Founder
Here’s an example of a healthy heart beating roughly at 65-70 bpm. Notice that there is a difference in timing between the heart beats.

Heart rate variability is exactly what is sounds like – the measure of how different the time is between beats when looking at our entire heart rhythm. It’s controlled by our nervous system and tells us so much more about our bodies than heart rate alone. We’ll skip some of the science for now, and make a generalized statement:

Low HRV number = you’re stressed
High HRV number = you’re well

What else does low HRV mean?

Research has shown a relationship between low HRV and overall poor health and wellness: aging, heart disease, mental illness including depression and anxiety, increased injury risk, and more.

But don’t freak out, and there’s no need to start comparing your numbers to others. Your HRV is very personal to you. One of the benefits to tracking your HRV over time is understanding what is normal for you, and what situations may decrease your HRV, such as an oncoming cold or flu or emotional stress, as well as what you can do to give yourself a boost.

If you understand your HRV, you can better understand your wellness and how it is impacted by the world around you as well as the world inside you – through your thoughts and emotions.

Basically – through HRV we can measure total wellness – physical, mental, and emotional.

How can I check my HRV?

HRV is typically measured through an electrocardiogram (ECG). Your doctor’s office has one of these, but it’s not practical for the at-home user.

Thankfully, there are more and more consumer products emerging that can reliably take your heart rhythm. One way to do this is with a chest strap and an app that analyzes that data. But if that sounds like a hassle to you, keep an eye out for the Core Meditation Trainer, which takes your HRV during sessions and gives you feedback on your stress levels and progress over time.

What can I do to increase my HRV?

There’s no short-cut or big secret to improving your wellness. Incorporate healthy habits into your life, and you should see results in a rising HRV:

  1. Meditation – If you’re just getting started, don’t worry about what type of meditation you choose or if you’re doing it right. You’ll see benefits just by showing up for yourself and taking a few minutes per day to focus on your breathing and notice your thoughts.
  2. Sleep – This one is a no-brainer. You know what your body needs.
  3. Exercise – Working out all your muscles with regular exercise (especially your heart) will improve HRV over time. One exception is in the short-term – if you’ve worked really hard, your body will have to recover as the acute stress exercise puts on your body will be reflected in HRV. But exercise regularly, and you’ll see it trend up.

Many are calling total well-being the trend of 2019, and HRV just may be the new metric for us to measure up to.

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