Defining a good heart rate variability has always been a question within the fitness community. Different lifestyles can dictate a person’s overall cardiovascular health which is why the answer typically varies from person to person. Thankfully, with modern advancements in technology, it’s now much easier to track and monitor these types of health information.
We can now check not just our heart rate, but also our blood pressure, calories, blood sugar, and weight in the comfort of our own homes. Because of this, it has also been considered an important factor in determining health resilience. It can also be an important indicator when it comes to measuring the efficiency of our nervous system.
What Is a Good Heart Rate Variability?
Heart rate variability or HRV is the measurement of time that varies between each heartbeat. It is controlled by our ANS or autonomic nervous system which is responsible for key physiological functions such as breathing and digestion. It also regulates cardiovascular functions such as blood pressure and heart rate.
The ANS has two components which are the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. They are responsible for relaxing and stimulating different physiological functions and can be heavily influenced by our lifestyle. This includes the amount of stress we undergo, the food we normally eat, and lack of sleep or exercise.
Having this in mind, our lifestyles can also have a huge influence on our HRV since it’s controlled by our ANS. An irregular heart rate can be a strong determinant of changes we need to make in terms of diet and exercise. It can also indicate cardiovascular conditions that may need to be addressed medically.
What Is a Good Heart Rate Variability for Fitness Enthusiasts?
HRV is a strong indicator of good health and fitness but it is also unique for each individual. What a good HRV is for you, may not be the same with someone of different age, gender, weight, and lifestyle. Family background is also quite important since genetics can influence the cardiovascular well-being of a person.
Environmental factors should also be considered especially when it comes to the individual’s diet and everyday activities. Having a high heart rate variability is an indicator of how your ANS responds to different kinds of stimuli. A balanced nervous system is resilient and can easily adapt to different environmental factors. This is generally the reason why a higher HRV is important to athletes and fitness enthusiasts.
Average Heart Rate Variability in Different Demographics
As aforementioned, heart rate variability differs per individual so it’s important to find the average HRV for the demographic that you fall under. As we get older our heart rate variability tends to decrease which is why people in their golden years are less resilient and more susceptible to cardiovascular problems. It’s also important to note that many individuals are below the normal HRV despite looking very fit and healthy.
Additionally, a good HRV in men is different from women. Men generally have a higher HRV than women but lifestyle choices will always have a strong influence on different physiological functions per individual. Constantly tracking your HRV would help you assess its normal trend and how different factors can affect its variability.
Someone with a higher heart rate variability than you doesn’t exactly mean they are more fit and healthy. If you’re taking steps to enhance your overall health, monitoring your own HRV rather than comparing it with others is always a better practice. However, though exercise is always good for you, low HRV can also be a sign of overtraining and failure to maintain a balanced diet.
Low Heart Rate Variability
With today’s technology, tracking your HRV can be done through fitness trackers built with ECG or PPG sensors. Noticing a low HRV trend can be a strong indicator of future complications that might need to be medically addressed. This means that your body might not be resilient enough to deal with physiological and environmental changes.
People with low HRV may also have higher resting heart rates since it beats faster with less time to rest between intervals. Because of this, people with low HRV are more vulnerable to health conditions such as hypertension, arrhythmia, diabetes, and asthma. Paying mind to what a good heart rate variability is within your demographic could be a baseline for you to check whether yours is within the average state.
Though an abnormal HRV does not exactly mean that you will experience future medical emergencies, it can still be an indicator of a current health issue that might manifest or progress in the future. Whatever the case may be, it’s always important to regularly consult a medical professional especially if you think there might be some concerns regarding your cardiovascular health.
Common Ways to Improve Your Heart Rate Variability
Athletes have a higher HRV than most of us because of regular training and exercise. Regular workouts can increase your HRV and are also highly beneficial to your cardiovascular health. However, overtraining can also be detrimental to your overall health so it’s always necessary to give your body the chance to properly recover after each training session.
Avoid Drinking and Smoking
Smoking cigarettes can cause detrimental effects to your overall cardiovascular health. It can trigger numerous heart conditions and also drastically lower your heart rate. Drinking alcohol can also potentially cause a decrease in our HRV for up to 5 days. Combining both habits often leads to the overall deterioration of cardiovascular functions so it’s always important to pick healthier lifestyle choices.
Balanced Diet and Proper Hydration
A regular and balanced diet is always good for our overall health. Keeping yourself hydrated allows proper blood circulation and oxygen delivery throughout the body. This is why these two factors can drastically determine what a good heart rate variability is. Combining healthy eating and exercise is not only good for our HRV but also our overall cardiovascular health.