Five ways to increase your HRV (heart rate variability)

For both athletes and mere mortals heart rate variability (HRV) is a valuable indicator of their body’s overall health and well-being. Plainly speaking it refers to the variation in time between consecutive heartbeats and is regulated by the autonomic nervous system. That may sound a bit overwhelming, but a higher HRV is generally associated with better cardiovascular health, reduced stress, and improved athletic performance.

A higher HRV means more energy and power to conquer the day.

Be warned though: while HRV is a good objective measure of your health, it is an extremely personalised metric. See for example this tweet by the famous Dr. Peter Attia.

Focus less on comparing and more on improving your own baseline HRV.

Enough introduction, let's talk money and start improving your HRV.

1. Stay Hydrated

Everybody knows that regular exercise and training is one of the best methods for improving your heart rate variability. A lesser know or perhaps overlooked fact is that proper hydration is extremely important for your HRV.

Stay hydrated, and your blood volume stays in check. More liquid means smoother blood circulation, delivering oxygen and nutrients to your body effortlessly. Aim to drink around an ounce (0.029l) of water per pound of your weight daily.

Interesting fact: WHOOP members with good hydration see their HRV increase by 3 milliseconds on average. Keep hydrated for a healthier you.

2. Sleep consistently

Sleeping for 7 to 8 hours per day is essential, but so is going to bed and waking up at the same time every day. This consistency boosts your HRV by maintaining your body’s natural rhythm and helps you in getting more REM and deep sleep (quality sleep). Rest well, live better.

WHOOP did not only find that sleeping consistently boosts your HRV, it also results in a lower resting heart rate. Consistency is king when it comes to the body.

3. Cold exposure

Taking cold showers or ice baths might sounds a bit intense, but they have surprising benefits. When you do this, it stimulates the vagus nerve, a key player in your body’s autonomic nervous system. This nerve triggers the parasympathetic branch, which helps regulate your heart rate variability.

Now, what’s the deal with the parasympathetic nervous system? Well, it’s like the calming, rest-and-digest side of your autonomic nervous system. When the parasympathetic branch is activated, it helps you feel more relaxed and at ease. It’s the opposite of the sympathetic nervous system, which gears you up for fight or flight situations.

4. Mindfulness, meditation and breathwork

Did you know that something as simple as slow, controlled breathing can do wonders for your HRV? Studies show that these breathing techniques not only improve your HRV, but also combat stress, which can otherwise hinder it.

Here's the interesting part: many WHOOP members have shared their experiences, and they've found that mindfulness and meditation work wonders for their HRV too. Like slow breathing, these practices help reduce stress and improve your overall well-being. 

Even setting aside just one minute each day for mindfulness exercises can make a real difference. It's incredible how small changes can lead to significant improvements in your HRV scores. Give it a try and see the positive impact on your life!

5. Sunlight exposure

Sunlight, the ultimate natural boost! Just step outside in the morning, and witness the sky's magic from light to dark in the evening. It sets in motion vital biological processes that regulate your sleep, energy levels, and hormone production (remember sleep consistency?). 

The result? 

Improved alertness, a better mood, and increased vitamin D production. So, soak in the sunlight, and let nature work its wonders on your HRV!