I remember years ago when they came out with a wearable device that counts your steps and it became super popular. Actually it still is popular with people constantly working to get in their 10,000 steps per day. What I love about the step counter is that it has gamified movement. I know some people that will pace around in their bedroom at night before they go to bed just to make sure they hit their numbers. 

Key Measurements to Track

I think it’s fantastic. While I love the step counter, that is not the measurement I am talking about.

There are measurements such as blood pressure, resting heart rate, respiration rate, and body temperature that are great statistics to track but I am not talking about those either.

What is HRV?

The one measurement that I think everyone should be tracking is their heart rate variability or HRV for short.

HRV is a powerful measure of the autonomic nervous system, especially the vagally mediated branch of the parasympathetic nervous system. 

Your autonomic nervous system is divided into the sympathetic and parasympathetic nervous systems. The sympathetic nervous system is the “fight or flight” response and the parasympathetic is the “rest and digest” or “feed and breed” response. 

Another way of describing it is the sympathetic nervous system is the “stress response” and the parasympathetic nervous system is the “recovery response.”

HRV is the time between subsequent heart beats. If you are primarily in sympathetic mode, the variation is low. If you are in parasympathetic mode, the variation is high. 

What HRV Means to You?

The higher your HRV, the better – up to a certain point. 

Low HRV has been shown to increase risk of death as well as have negative outcomes with cancer, heart disease, and anxiety and depression.

One powerful way we begin to shift people from sympathetic to parasympathetic response thus increasing HRV is through corrective chiropractic care. 

There are many other things you can do to have a positive influence on HRV such as quality sleep, mindfulness, meditation, moderate exercise, and diet.

You can use apps or devices like Elite HRV, Whoop, Oura ring, or HRV4Training to begin to measure your HRV.

The best way to influence your HRV is to measure it, track it, and then make adjustments that move it in a better direction.

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Dr. Matt Westheimer