Take your fitness training to the next level with heart rate variability monitoring. The HRV technology isn’t available on all wearables, and the data you get will differ from device to device. But HRV information is valuable in improving your fitness training, reaching your exercise goals, and reducing your day’s physical or mental stress.
What is Heart Rate Variability Monitoring?
HRV monitoring on smartwatches and fitness trackers displays the timing of your individual heartbeats based on the seconds between each. Your heart may pound so many times per minute, but the seconds between each heartbeat can vary each time.
Heart rate variability norms are different between each person but are essential to understand for athletic performance and training. HRV is one piece of the overall picture your smartwatch data can create for your health and well-being.
What can HRV monitoring tell us about our health?
HRV is an indirect measure of stress by looking at our body’s autonomic nervous system (ANS). Our ANS regulates heart rate, blood pressure, respiration, digestion, and arousal over three main branches: sympathetic, parasympathetic, and enteric. And when those branches act in certain ways, our HRV changes, which can indicate an increase or decrease in health.
It is generally understood that lower HRV regularly is a sign of poorer health, while higher HRV signifies the opposite.
You can watch the HRV graph on your app and see if you notice patterns between your heart rate variability and your daily activity and workouts. You can also use the data to see how specific workouts may affect your heart’s overall beating and your overall stress levels.
Suppose your heart rate consistently shows low variability, for example. In that case, you can examine your athletic training or your workouts to be less stressful on your body. A higher variability can then show you when your body is performing better. You may not be under less stress, but your body could handle it well in terms of heart health.
A high HRV can signify:
- Adequate sleep
- Your body has a good response to daily stress
- You are working out and training within your body’s limits
- Positive mental health and well-being
A low HRV can signify:
- You’re training or exercising too hard
- Inadequate sleep
- The onset of illness
- General stress and fatigue
So, some of the things that can affect your HRV each day include:
- How you balance rest and workouts
- The intensity of your workouts
- Sleep habits
- And biological factors like age, gender, genetics, and chronic health conditions.
How do smart devices measure heart rate variability?
There are two primary ways in which smartwatches and trackers measure our heart rate variability. Either with an SNDD formula or an rMSSD formula. An SNDD result is from a 24-hour period and recorded in milliseconds. In contrast, the rMSSD readings are recorded over a shorter period. In a Fitbit, for example, the rMSSD is used based on your longest period of sleep that night. (Frontiers of Public Health, 2017).
Keeping track of your heart and how it beats are an essential part of any training or workout regimen. But this isn’t a standard across all wearable tech like fitness trackers and smartwatches. However, a few brands have come out on top when it comes to overall fitness training and HRV readings. These smart wearables can bring about the best in several workouts, like cardio training, resistance, or strength training.
5 Best Wearables for HRV Monitoring
Fitbit Charge 5
This smaller fitness tracker packs a decent punch in terms of health, exercise, and heart-based features. It is a reliable and affordable device, perfect for anyone wanting to take control of their heart health or athletic performance.
In terms of keeping track of your ticker’s well-being, the Charge 5 can provide the HRV, heart rate notifications, and an ECG app with A-fib monitoring. These heart-healthy features on the Charge 5 include detailed sleep monitoring, active zone minutes records, and access to 20 different exercise/workout modes.
Go to your Health Metrics section of your Fitbit App to find your Fitbit HRV data and graph. The information from Fitbit is measured using the RMSSD formula based on your nightly averages, with HRV displayed in milliseconds.
Garmin Epix (Gen 2)
Specific Garmin devices offer you a Health Snapshot, with HRV at the center of the data. The Garmin Epix (Gen 2) is a wonderful option for the seriously active and fit, with several health-tracking features and the Health Snapshot.
The smartwatch includes Body Battery monitoring, advanced sleep monitoring, stress tracking, respiration tracking, and pule OX tracking. The Health Snapshot uses a 2-minute period to record heart rate, HRV, respiration, and stress to give you a quick picture of your physical well-being.
Your Epix allows you to see in an instant how stressed you truly could be. The Epix Gen 2 is a premium smartwatch with a wealth of exercise tracking capabilities, GPS, a tough outer shell, and excellent battery life. So it’s worth the smartwatch investment if you can.
Apple Watch Series 7
There is a considerable wealth of health information to access with an Apple Watch Series 7. And this includes a large set of heart health data to access with your Apple Health app. Suppose you’re looking to get into more intense physical training or workouts. In that case, there is valuable info from the Series 7 to help improve all workout areas like endurance, cardio, strength, or flexibility training.
Besides HRV readings, the Series 7 can offer an ECG app and reading, detailed workout data like recovery heart rate, and irregular rhythm notifications. The HRV can also help your training or exercise goals through a detailed graph. You can view the information as daily, weekly, or monthly heart rate variability.
Polar Vantage V2
If you want to compare the Polar Vantage V2 to other smartwatches, you’ll need to look at the higher-end premium devices like Garmin. The Vantage V2 is a fully loaded multi-sport smartwatch that can help elevate your training, workouts, or sports game.
The V2 can do so with its multi-satellite positioning/tracking, many workout modes, an underwater rating of 100m, and Polar’s own Training Load Pro and Recovery Pro. But what makes it a serious training tool on top of a reliable smartwatch is the watch’s ability to perform Orthostatic Tests.
You need additional hardware like a Polar H9/H10 heart rate sensor and will need to plan the tests out to get the best results. But with this extra planning and additional piece of equipment, you can be on your way to a healthier lifestyle and a more manageable fitness routine.
This smart band doesn’t work like other smartwatches and fitness trackers. The Whoop line of smart wearables focuses solely on your body and health metrics. And rather than an upfront cost, Whoop wearables are subscription-based. But what can it do for you and your workouts if it isn’t tracking them?
The Whoop 4.0 still tracks all your daily health vitals, like blood oxygen saturation, heart rate, skin temperature, and sleep patterns, and sends it all to an app on your phone. Your Whoop band also comes with personalized coaching tools based on your data.
A Strain Coach will let you know how to prevent over-training, and a Sleep Coach can wake you when you’ve had enough sleep or alert you when you need more rest. When using HRV data, the Whoop 4.0 uses graphs and color codes to alert you where you are in your recovery or exertion stages (like the Garmin Body Battery!).
Read Next: The Ultimate Smartwatch Comparison
When it comes to HRV monitoring, these are all great options. So, ultimately, it comes down to what other features you require from your wearable device.
The Fitbit Charge 5 is a great fitness tracker, whereas if you are looking for something that has a better balance of smartwatch features with fitness capabilities, the Apple Watch 7 may suit you.
If you are a serious athlete or enjoy outdoor adventures, either the Garmin, Polar, or Whoop are going to be your best options for HRV monitoring.
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Bernadette has a bachelor’s degree in Communications from MacEwan University in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada (where she lives). She has a passion for writing and we like her contribution and style to our blog. Bernadette loves the outdoors and things like hiking, camping, and biking. Wishing she could travel more.
Bernadette is an editor, writer and proofreader for Superwatches. Currently lives in Alberta Canada.