In conjunction with Apple Health, Airofit can now combine heart rate variability (HRV) with the breath-training data in our app to provide a much clearer picture of overall health, sleep and fitness level.
But what exactly is HRV and how is it relevant to your health? Heart rate variability is a measure of the variation in time between heartbeats. Increased cardiovascular fitness is usually associated with a higher level of HRV and a lower resting heart rate. People with high HRV usually perform better in stressful situations.
Conversely, hard training, emotional stress and infections, such as Coronavirus, can temporarily reduce HRV.
So, tracking HRV is a useful way to monitor your resilience and a helpful addition to existing health metrics.
By swiping in the app, you can switch between HRV and sleep data, giving you easy access to this extra level of health feedback.
Heart rate variability and the ANS
HRV is controlled by the autonomic nervous system (ANS), which regulates our heart rate, blood pressure, immune function and digestion among other key tasks.
The ANS is subdivided into two main parts:
• The sympathetic nervous system (SNS), also known as the ‘fight-or-flight’ mechanism.
• The parasympathetic nervous system (PNS) also known as the ‘rest and digest’ mechanism.
Our SNS powers us up for big challenges or stressful life events. It increases our heart rate, blood pressure and slows digestion.
Our PNS provides a counter-balance to the SNS, returning us to a relaxed state, recovery and normal digestion.
We live in a hyper-stimulating world, bombarded with many demands and stresses. Their effects can be compounded by poor sleep, unhealthy lifestyle choices, and the additional slings and arrows that life throws our way.
Factors that can negatively influence HRV
Overtraining, poor sleep and alcohol consumption have negative impacts on HRV, so it’s important to be aware how our habits, both good and bad, can influence our health and performance.
A number of physical and mental health problems can also affect HRV, including diseases that affect the heart, lungs, kidneys and brain.
Chronic pain, or exposure to extreme heat, noise or stress can also be factors.
How can I check my HRV?
The most accurate readings will come from an electrocardiogram (ECG) check-up with a cardiologist, or by using one of the specialized HRV tracking devices with a chest-strap monitor. But for a slightly less exact measurement, there are a number of fitness trackers that now include HRV tracking.
At the present moment Airofit is working with data from the Apple Health app, so, the Apple Watch, as well as compatible fitness trackers from a number of leading fitness brands can be used to import your HRV and sleep metrics.
How can we improve HRV?
Research shows that controlled, slow breathing, such as when using Airofit, can positively influence the function of the PNS, which reduces stress and anxiety, promoting relaxation and improving sleep quality. Boosting PNS activity also improves heart rate variability.
Regular physical activity and a healthy diet are also crucial, and so is getting proper rest and hydration.
HRV will vary according to many factors, so it’s important not to look at this metric in isolation but see it as one small part of your overall health and fitness picture. It may simply be another useful clue to the impacts that your current diet, physical activity or lifestyle is having on your stress levels and your heart.
Breath-training for better health and well-being
Many of our users find that regular sessions with Airofit give them more than just improved breathing and sports performance. App programs like Mindfulness provide a welcome oasis of calm in a busy, stressful life. Focusing only on your breath and following the instructions in the app, you can unwind, reduce stress, and give your PNS a chance to work its magic.
We hope that the new HRV and sleep additions to our app will help our users to reach their goals and improve their health, fitness and general well-being. And the Airofit team will also be enthusiastically checking these new metrics in tracking their own fitness journeys.