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Heart rate variability has increasingly become popular and for good reason. It's a metric that is very important, yet no one was talking about it a couple of years ago.

It is a great way to keep track of stress, rest and overtraining.

HRV is a measure of the variation between your heartbeat. The higher the number, in theory, the less stress and more recovered you are.

There are different ways to measure it, from the Oura Ring to the Whoop Watch. There are new devices coming to the market every day. Everyone wants to quantify and make algorithms for everything in their life.

Unlike Heart rate, where you would want a lower number, HRV is the opposite, the higher your number the better it is.

Once you have this data, the common question to ask is how do I improve my numbers?

I have been keeping track of my HRV for the past year and have tried different things with a variety of success.

 

Screenshot of my heart rate variability data

Here are my Top 5 things to do to improve your heart rate variability today...

#5- More Sleep

I have seen that my HRV tends to trend higher as the night progresses. I start to reach the peak of my HRV around 6 hours into my sleep. I see that between the 6th-8th hours of sleep I have the highest HRV. If you have the availability to add an extra hour of sleep, you will benefit from an even higher HRV average since HRV seems to increase the more you sleep and rest.

#4- Cardio

Strengthing your heart will reward you in many ways. One of the ways is a higher HRV. It will help lower your resting heart rate while at the same time increasing your heart rate variability. Cardio like HIIT (High-Intensity Interval Training) is a great way to lower body fat and be healthier.

#3- Box Breathing & Meditation

HRV has a lot to do with stress. If you find yourself in a stressful situation, try to remain calm and focus on your breath. Box breathing is an easy technique that you can use anywhere. You take a deep inhale for 4 seconds, then hold for 4 seconds before exhaling. Once you exhale you hold for 4 seconds before you inhale again. Try doing about 5 sets of these to lower cortisol levels. Lower cortisol levels will lead to a higher HRV.

#2- Fasting

I noticed that intermediate fasting increases your HRV the more hours you take in between your meals. However, the biggest increase I have noticed is when I do the occasional 48- 72 hour fast. On those nights, my HRV average is about 20 percent higher than on regular nights. I believe this happens because my digestive system is taking a break and my heart and body don't have to work as hard digesting food all night.

#1- Cold Showers

Cold showers have really moved the dial for me in the last couple of months. Right before going to bed, I take a 5-7 minute cold shower where I alternate between hot water and cold water. The hot water is only on for 10 seconds and then the cold water is held for 20 seconds. Do about 10 of these sets for a complete cold shower. You can also just stick to all cold water. However, I found it easier to start cold showers with the 20 seconds on and 10 seconds off. In the beginning, the cold showers were a little hard to get used to, but now my body has adjusted and it actually feels good. I began cold showers about 4 months ago. In the first month, my average HRV was 57 ms, then the second month it jumped to 61 ms. In the third month, the average HRV went up to 69 ms and now its at 76 ms. The only thing I'm doing differently is the cold showers!

So there you have it, 5 easy and free ways to improve your heart rate variability. So suck it up and get in that cold shower and get healthier. Not only will it increase your heart rate variability but it has also been shown to help regulate blood sugar levels.
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About Jay

Hello! I'm Jay - one of the Health + Wellness writers for Sprouting Zen. Have a great day!

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