Blog post by Marco Altini
In our recent publication, we analyzed the relationship between heart rate and HRV with respect to individual characteristics such as:
In a large sample of 28 000 individuals. What did we learn?
Some of the findings are larger-scale replications of what we knew already Consistent results with published literature that used different data collection procedures is a good first step It gives confidence in the quality of the data when we start digging a bit deeper
Women have higher resting heart rate than men, but very similar HRV In fact, at a younger age, women have a slightly higher HRV. This is of interest as a higher heart rate would normally be associated with lower HRV. The discrepancy might be due to hormonal differences.
Both underweight and overweight/obese categories show what we have called in the paper a suboptimal physiological profile, meaning that resting heart rate increases and HRV reduces when deviating from the normal range. The strongest deviation is for the obese category.
There was no correlation between resting heart rate and age, and a moderate correlation between HRV and age. This is one of the most interesting relationships, as heart rate and HRV clearly decouple and are representative of different processes (more on this later).
Physical activity level
The association between physical activity level and resting physiology is stronger for heart rate (r = 0.30, moderate effect size) than for HRV (r = 0.21, small effect size). When we break this down by age group, things get even more interesting.
The correlation between physical activity level and HRV reduces by age, getting to r = 0.13 for older individuals. Only for very young individuals (20-30 age group) there is a decent association between fitness and HRV.
Finally, we built models to determine how much variance age, sex, BMI and physical activity level could explain. Are they sufficient to get a good understanding of inter-individual differences? Not really, as they explain 19% of the variance in heart rate and only 15% in HRV.
What are the implications of these findings?
A low HRV in aging individuals might be associated with a deterioration of regulatory mechanisms. The weak link between physical activity and HRV as we age might similarly be associated with reduced baroreceptor sensitivity. On the contrary, increased stroke volume due to high levels of physical activity maintain resting heart rate low even for older age groups. In terms of explained variance, it is clear that genetic factors are key in explaining differences in heart rhythm between people.
An important implication here is that in our opinion, targeting improvements in HRV as intervention goals might not be realistic, given the strong heritability coupled with reductions with age and low explained variance associated with lifestyle factors such as physical activity level.
But there's an important caveat. In this work, we had a large sample. However, this sample is not representative of the whole population, but only of relatively healthy or health-conscious individuals. There might be more to gain for e.g. who never exercises, is overweight, etc.
This is why HRV as an absolute value is of little interest (in our opinion). On the other hand, HRV was able to capture day-to-day stressors within individuals with high sensitivity, as I will cover in a future blog.
You can find the full text of the paper, here. Thank you for reading!
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This blog is curated by
Marco Altini, founder of HRV4Training
The Ultimate Guide to HRV
1: Measurement setup
2: Interpreting your data
3: Case studies and practical examples
1. Intro to HRV
2. How to use HRV, the basics
3. HRV guided training
4. HRV and training load
5. HRV, strength & power
6. Overview in HRV4Training Pro
7. HRV in team sports
1. Context & Time of the Day
3. Paced breathing
4. Orthostatic Test
5. Slides HRV overview
6. Normal values and historical data
7. HRV features
1a. Acute Changes in HRV
1b. Acute Changes in HRV (population level)
1c. Acute Changes in HRV & measurement consistency
1d. Acute Changes in HRV in endurance and power sports
2a. Interpreting HRV Trends
2b. HRV Baseline Trends & CV
3. Tags & Correlations
4. Ectopic beats & motion artifacts
5. HRV4Training Insights
6. HRV4Training & Sports Science
7. HRV & fitness / training load
8. HRV & performance
9. VO2max models
10. Repeated HRV measurements
11. VO2max and performance
12. HR, HRV and performance
13. Training intensity & performance
14. Publication: VO2max & running performance
15. Estimating running performance
16. Coefficient of Variation
17. More on CV and the big picture
18. Case study marathon training
19. Case study injury and lifestyle stress
20. HRV and menstrual cycle
21. Cardiac decoupling
22. FTP, lactate threshold, half and full marathon time estimates
23. Training Monotony
Camera & Sensors
1. ECG vs Polar & Mio Alpha
2a. Camera vs Polar
2b. Camera vs Polar iOS10
2c. iPhone 7+ vs Polar
2d. Comparison of PPG sensors
3. Camera measurement guidelines
4. Validation paper
5. Android camera vs Chest strap
6. Scosche Rhythm24
7. Apple Watch
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2. Daily advice
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4. Sleep tracking
5. Training load analysis
6a. Integration with Strava
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6d. Integration with Genetrainer
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6f. Integration with Todays Plan
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10. Acute stressors analysis
11. Training Polarization
12. Lactate Threshold Estimation
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1. HRV normal values
2. HRV normalization by HR
3. HRV 101