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Options for Tracking Heart Rate Variability

Options for Tracking Heart Rate Variability

by: Dru Ryan
Thursday, June 21, 2018 - 12:39pm

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Options for Tracking Heart Rate Variability

Heart rate variability (HRV) provides insight to know when your body is ready for a workout and when it’s best to take more time to recover.   Most fitness trackers provide an average of the number of heartbeats per minute. Useful in most situations, heart rate variability takes it a step forever by capturing and measuring thousands of heartbeats.  This biometric can reveal information about a subject.

By measuring the distance between each heartbeat, advanced trackers feed information into a mobile app, providing feedback about your body’s ability to take on more duress (i.e. a hard workout).  The variation in heart rate data, when compared to your previous measurements, provides a treasure trove of metrics about your body.

Source: Daily Healths Points

Major League Baseball, the NBA, NFL and college teams have all taken to HRV to better gauge the impact of travel, of a game for starting pitchers and even the length of practice and game time on a player’s body.  Chair of Kinesiology at UVA, Arthur Weltman, mentions, “If somebody’s played 38 out of 40 minutes, and their readiness score says they haven’t recovered yet, we might choose to limit their practice time.”

Top Heart Rate Variation (HRV) Trackers

As heart rate variation becomes better understood by consumers, more products will hit the market.  For now, professional athletes and numbers conscious weekend warriors are the primary users.  Here are three products worth considering.

Whoop Strap 2.0, $180 *

The choice of professional athletes, the Whoop strap collects five metrics, 100 times a second.  Whoop collect data 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. In doing so, it provides a personalized picture of your body and shares it with you via their app.

* $30 a month, 6 month minimum membership

BioStrap -- $175

Biostrap tracks over 2,000 heartbeats each day. Every single heartbeat wave is analyzed against 29 metrics, then compared against other heartbeats from the prior 24 hours.  Results are shared in their BioStrap app (iOS and Android). Can auto-detect type of workout or activity (including indoor cycling). Purchase with the optional shoepod, sold separately, to capture lower body exercises.

Oura Ring, $299

Don’t want something on your wrist, the Oura ring may be for you.  Worn on your finger (8 sizes available), it monitors your body and shares results via their app.  A major focus of the ring is improved sleep. Their blog describes how the Aura ring helps you find your circadian rhythm.

Other Devices and Mobile Apps

Other devices provide a stress test (measured in 3-5 minutes) or otherwise derive HRV without taking continuous measurements over a 24 hour period. Sometimes dubbed a short-term HRV, the Garmin Fenix 5 (new model just released), Apple Watch Series 3 (though, some argue it's not accurate) and Polar V800 (with heart rate strap) capture this metric.  

Some mobile apps also boast HRV measurement.  Be sure to read the fine print to fully understand what you are getting.  Unlike heart rate, heart rate variability is best when measured over time.  Instantaneous measurements offer little value. Outside of wearing an HRV ready heart rate monitor 24 hours a day, mobile apps alone can’t provide meaningful results.

About the Author

Dru Ryan is a daily bike commuter, indoor cycling coach (EquinoxCrunch, Mint DC) and road cyclist who averages 200 miles a week. Follow Dru on TwitterInstagram, and Facebook or visit his website