A steady heartbeat is what you want, right?
You want the rhythmic boom, boom, steady beats.
Well, this would not be what is in your best interest.
You actually should want more uneven beats. Almost random. It’s only when things are going wrong are your heart beats steady.
The “fight or flight” response is what produces steady heartbeats.
And only for a short time.
Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is simply a measure of the variation in time of each heartbeat.
It actually may be a great indicator of your cardiovascular health and should be encouraged.
The HRV is controlled by the most primitive part of your brain. Unlike some things you do (eat, lift your arm, etc.) the HRV is controlled by the automatic part of the brain which controls things like digestion.
This is called the Autonomic Nervous System (ANS). It responds to such things as a bad night’s sleep, your diet, or a confrontation with a bully. When it is out of balance, or under too much continual stress, it can go into overdrive all the time.
The way to check if you are in overdrive is to check your HRV level and doing that has gotten easier thanks to smartwatches.
The gold standard to check this has always been an Electrocardiogram at a doctor’s office, but smartwatches and chest strap pulse rate monitors can make it possible to monitor your own heart health.
Why would you want to do this? If your pulse is constant all the time – then you know you are too stressed out.
There are limits to what you can do about it but knowing this can help you decide if you want to make lifestyle changes.
But it also helps you pick the right workout.
For instance, if your watch’s HRV app shows that you are under stress and your heart is not experiencing much variability, then a low-intensity recovery workout (think a long walk) would make sense.
If you see that you have a high HRV score, it’s time for the High-Intensity Interval Training.
The high HRV score indicates that your body has the energy to recover from an intense workout. This is when you are going to make your best gains.
This data is being used more and more in the military and professional sports teams.
Professional cyclists used this system and found their performance improved over 14 percent.
We have all had those days when we felt that we were wasting our time going to the gym. Having HRV data might explain why and prevent that problem down the road.
While the apps are not exact, they do help you spot patterns.
In other words, while it’s a tool, it’s not for diagnosing medical conditions.
HRV might be a good motivational tool to let you know when to go hard at the gym or take it easy on yourself.
And it might help you realize when you really are stressing yourself out too much.
So, while you might have thought that a pulse that seems to skip around is bad, it is actually a good thing and the higher the variability the better.