How to set heart rate variability on Apple Watch?

It was with the launch of the Apple Watch Series 1 and 2 that Apple incorporated heart rate tracking or monitoring. With this function we now have the possibility of receiving notifications for high or low heart rate. Although this function is only available on Apple Watch that supports watchOS 5 or later versions.

With the Apple Watch 4 came even more important changes. This model of Apple Watch incorporated the ability to perform electrocardiograms.

In 2022, a study was published showing that the Apple Watch could also be accurate when it comes to track heart rate variability (VFC in Spanish or HRV in English) in users.

blood oxygen health iPhone

What is heart rate variability or HRV?

Heart rate variability is the measure of how the time interval between heartbeats changes. People cannot notice these small variations, but devices like the Apple Watch or other smart watches like Polar or Garmin can. Although some professionals argue that HRV measurement is not as accurate on smartwatches as it is on specialized devices. There are studies, as we indicated above, that show that Apple Watch is also accurate for HRV monitoring.

Why is it important to have a high heart rate variability?

A high HRV indicates better health and ability to exercise. In fact, many professionals in the field consider this metric one of the best to know when your body needs to rest or is ready to perform, and it also provides information about the state of our nervous system. Next to the VFC, there is the VO2 max. This is also one of the most important performance metrics. Since it can be indicative and predictive of the state of health in general.

How to view HRV with Apple Watch and iPhone?

Apple Watch automatically records HRV for all users ages 18 and older. To access this information we must go to the Health application on the iPhone and follow these steps:

  • open the Health app on the iPhone
  • Select the tab “Explore” in the lower right corner
  • Choose “Heart” and select “Heart Rate Variability”

Now at the top of the screen you can change the view of the HRV data according to the day, week, month or year.

How to record HRV manually?

It is also possiblee record and view your HRV with Apple Watch and iPhone forcibly while you are at rest and at the same time every day. For this you can use the application “Full attention” on the Apple Watch and select the option “Breathe”. Right when you’re done, you’ll be able to see the new HRV data in the Health app on your iPhone.

ECG Apple Watch

Despite the benefits of having access to this information, one of the main drawbacks of this feature of Apple Watch and the Health app is that no recommendations offered nor any additional information about these data. There are many options that Apple could offer us in this regard to improve the experience. From HRV trends and patterns from graphs, personalized recommendations on how to improve heart rate variability, insights into recovery status, or cardiovascular health assessments.

However, for now, we will have to make do with the information we have and if you are very interested in the subject and want to continue exploring, you will have to agree to download third-party applications such as whoop either Oura.

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