Understanding how to measure and track biometric data like HRV correctly allows you to see how stress affects your life. HRV is a proven indicator of how well the body’s stress response system functions. Properly tracking this invaluable data point with new smart biofeedback wearables can help you better understand your health.
If you are familiar with Kobe’s Mamba mentality, you are most likely aware of the benefits of measuring progress over time. There is no arguing the efficacy of trusting in the process and keeping track of what works – and what doesn’t – over time. The same goes for people committed to improving their fitness, minimizing stress, and getting ahead in their careers. Paying attention to long-term success makes putting in the work today much easier to tackle.
Getting a clear picture of your health from an HRV wearable has been, up to this point in time, a challenging endeavor–let’s face it, this information is difficult to understand. Classic monitoring techniques such as heart rate, breath rate, and steps per day can help you know how intense your workout is and if you are challenging your body. Still, they leave something to be desired when creating a more in-depth picture of how your body performs over time and the overall improvement of your mental and physical well-being.
A more specific measurement known as Heart Rate Variability (HRV) has begun to sweep the health and wellness industry due to its ability to speak to many health-related issues, including heart health, stress, and metabolic activity.
Why Measuring Heart Rate Variability Is Important
As your heart beats 100,000 beats every day, there is a slight variation between them. From beat to beat, your heart rate is constantly changing to meet the needs of the different systems in the body. The term ‘heart rate variability refers to this variation. It is a plentiful source of information that can tell you how well your body can adapt to the stressors.
While this may seem simple, this key finding can give invaluable insights into your health, including how stress is affecting your body, the strength of your heart, and the fortitude of your mind.
But what is it about this data that tells us this?
Slight variations in heartbeats tell us how well the body activates the two primary branches of the autonomic nervous system. The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) is responsible for bringing the body back to rest, and the sympathetic nervous system preps the body for action. A healthy body is one where both of these systems work in harmony.
Your wearable will display a higher variability as you progress through training, practice deep breathing, or lead a healthier lifestyle. This higher variability indicates that the body is getting better at modulating the actions of these two systems and handling stress.
However, there is no “standard” HRV range for any demographic. The most important metric to track is your baseline and progress over time. When it comes to HRV – normal is better! Upward trends will signify an increase in health, while downward trends signify red flags.
Keeping track of your HRV data over time can help you understand what is happening to your body on a deeper level. It can help you understand how meditation, biofeedback, and breathwork are helping your body de-stress and if you are overtraining your body.
How HRV Has Been Measured Historically
Before modern wearable technology, measuring heart rate variability involved a much more dynamic, invasive, and technically dense approach. The clinical approach requires electrocardiograms (ECGs) that analyze the electrical currents emanating from each heartbeat. ECGs need complex machinery that uses electrodes placed at various points across the body.
While this approach is perfectly fine (and accurate) for clinical use, the bulk and process of getting hooked up to this machine are not ideal for the gym or work!
With the advent of comfortable and efficient wearables, it is now possible to get accurate HRV readings at any time and place.
Modern wearables also make it easier to get accurate readings and actionable insights that can help guide you in the right direction on your path to wellness.
How Biofeedback Wearables Track HRV
Modern biofeedback wearables track your HRV by taking continuous measurements of your heart rate over time while taking note of significant interferences that can affect the reliability of the data.
Measuring heart rate variability readings has been challenging in the developing wearables space. Some early iterations of wearables that attempt to use HRV as a data point have made the mistake of taking readings at specific, or even non-specific, times and trying to present this as usable and reliable data.
While this may sound good in theory, heart rate variability readings are skewed when you engage in activity that gets your heart pumping. Lifting weights, running, and even speaking can alter the variability between heartbeats. Not only that, but studies have also shown that HRV readings vary at different points of the day as well. The reason for this variance is due to some pretty dense science. To summarize the science, the body operates on a circadian rhythm and has different physiological needs throughout the day. Staying on a set schedule keeps your circadian rhythm in harmony. With HRV measurement, context is king.
These trends tell us that taking measurements at different times can significantly impact the results. For example, if someone between the ages of 40 and 50 takes a reading at 10 am compared to 6 am, they will very likely see a result that will not accurately represent their actual health status. Wearables need to have certain features that can intelligently sift out these interferences and present users with clean, reliable, and easy-to-read insights on their health.
How Hanu Measures and Tracks HRV
New biofeedback wearables have taken steps to ensure that HRV is measured continuously. They note when motion and an increased heart rate are detected, ensuring that HRV readings reliably present data without physiological interference.
The key features that enable identifying trends accurately over time include:
- Continuous Readings – To analyze data trends over time, provide a contextual framework, and understand what the heart rate variability data is saying to you, it is essential to get continuous readings over time. Readings done separately, at night or in the morning, only give a glimpse of what is happening in the body. As we have learned, HRV data (for stress resiliency purposes) provides information that requires analysis over the long term. If you are using HRV measurements for determining athletic recovery status, the consistency is king and only requires a single reading taken at the same time each day.
- Motion Artifact Detection – Since we know that activity, breathing, and even getting angry or annoyed at your friend can alter HRV levels, the wearable must be able to detect these instances. Hanu detects motion and instances where your heart rate jumps significantly, providing more depth to the data and giving you more valuable insights into your body’s well-being and progress over the long term. The great thing about Hanu is that it will not present you with “junk data.” In other words, when the technology senses excessive movement, these data points are not analyzed and presented.
- Machine Learning Analysis – We use machine learning and comparative analytics to distill the hard-to-read data into easily understood, actionable feedback. We know you are busy, so we built Hanu to help anyone easily interpret their HRV data on the fly.
- Meaningful Data Detection – To get the most information out of your HRV data, it is important to distinguish when HRV data is significant. Hanu does not present data when there is excessive artifact detection, such as during excessive movement, walking, or running. HRV data is most valuable and meaningful when there are fewer variables skewing the data. Hanu mainly collects HRV data when you are at rest or performing ”light work” (semi-rest).
Get The Most Out Of Your HRV Measurements
The fact is that HRV measurements require a much different process than it takes to track more straightforward data points such as heart and breath rate. The variability of your heart rate paints a much deeper picture of the health of your body, the effect stress has on your physiology, and how well your body can tolerate this stress. We have gone the extra mile to create a wearable that is as dedicated to your health as you are – because, as Kobe said, trusting in the process and being present for the journey is a way of life.