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  • Writer's pictureDoug Joachim

Meditation Too Hard? Try Heart Rate Variability Training

Updated: Nov 15, 2020

personal training nyc

Unquestionably the two most essential organs you own are your brain and heart. I’d like to show you how to improve the health of both with a simple technique called heart rate variability (HRV) training.  HRV is the measure of time gaps between heartbeatsGenerally speaking, the more variable the gap between each beat, the healthier you are.  Someone who has little variation tends to be sick, diseased or heading in that general direction. Not good. For over a decade medical science and cardiologists have been accurately using this measurement to predict future cardiovascular disease and diabetes. Over the last few years, bio-hackers and athletic coaches have been using HRV training to improve stress levels, recovery times and mental acuity. Think of it as a form of heart meditation that helps get you into the flow state.  Many people equate it to ‘breathing through your heart’.  It may sound like new age mumbo-jumbo but I assure you it is not.

Entrepreneurs have made use of cutting edge science to give individuals control over their HRV with simple bio-feedback devices.  In fact, you can even buy an app for it.  Let’s face it, there will soon be an app for everything!  So what are some benefits of training your heart this way and will it take a lot of time? I’m glad to say it only takes about 5 to 10 minutes per day! And this is what it can do for you:

  1. It can improve brain cognition and mental clarity while decreasing fatigue.

  2. Decreases the stress response including lowering cortisol levels (helps you relax!).

  3. It can stop you from overtraining and make your workouts more effective.

  4. Decreases symptoms of depression and can boost positive moods.

  5. It reduces the risk of inflammatory illnesses and decreases blood pressure.

  6. Increases your levels of DHEA (which improve overall hormonal functioning and decrease the effects of aging).

  7. It can decrease the bouts of insomnia.

Your heart doesn’t beat in a perfectly steady, metronomic fashion. Rather, the frequency of your heart rate varies with your breathing. When you exhale the brain sends a message to your heart to slow it down and when you inhale it tells it to speed up.  The messages are sent very quickly and only command your heart to speed up/slow down just a negligible amount.  When you are healthy the brain is sending these signals in a balanced pattern but as you get sick/stressed out these messages get weaker or asymmetrical causing low variability.

How To Train For Better Heart Rate Variability: There are many ways to improve your HRV.  Perhaps the easiest approach is through exercise but it is not very precise and offers little biofeedback.  Cardio training and more specifically high-intensity interval training (HIIT) have been seen in many studies to show the biggest benefit in HRV.  When we are young and/or more physically active, we have greater HRV. As we age, there is usually a downward trajectory in our activity levels and our hearts get weaker causing lower HRV.  Physical inactivity and slothfulness have similar effects.  Staying active while you grow older is a crucial component in keeping the heart healthy (understatement of the decade!).

There are many apps for your smartphone, computer or iPad that will take a daily snapshot of your HRV (requires 2 minutes) and appraise your strength, energy, and alertness for the day or not….which means take a day off buddy!  Many professional athletes are now using HRV to optimize their training effects and recovery times.  It can be a great tool to glean a better understanding of daily fitness preparedness.  For those of you who want to actually train your HRV and get a snapshot of where you stand on a daily basis there are other apps that meet this criterion. Here is a review of the two top apps from the Wall Street Journal: Breathe, Relax Repeat: Devices for Inner Peace


Doug Joachim – NYC personal training


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