4 Easy Ways to De-Stress and Improve Your Heart Rate Variability
When you think of the stress associated with a vertebral subluxation, your mind may immediately go to the physical traumas that caused it. However, there is more to a subluxation than just a sports injury or poor posture while using your smartphone. Our clients at Atlas know that we look deeper than the obvious causes of poor health. We consider all three causes of subluxation: physical stress, chemical stress, and emotional stress. These are so important because your nervous system reacts and adapts differently depending on how well you can handle these stressors. If you are overwhelmed in any or all of those three areas, your nervous system can suffer. Since your nervous system is the master control system of your body, so you want it to be in peak performance.
With so many different stressors in life, we need a way to measure overall nervous system function. At Atlas, we use Heart Rate Variability (HRV) to measure how well our clients are creating a healthy nervous system. Heart rate is controlled by the autonomic nervous system, a division of the nervous system that runs on its own without us having to think about it. HRV measures the differences in duration of heart beats. Ideally, you have a high HRV because it means you are able to adapt quickly, meaning if you step out onto the crosswalk and a bus comes barreling down the road, you can quickly get into a sympathetic state (fight-or-flight) and jump out of the way. Just as important is the ability to switch into a parasympathetic state (rest-and-digest) before bedtime and quickly fall into a restful sleep. Measuring HRV can indicate how efficiently the body adapt to these extremes.
Knowing that a good HRV scan is evidence of a healthy, adaptable nervous system, here are four tips to destress and improve your HRV today:
- Do physical exercise. Studies of Type 2 Diabetics have shown that over a course of 3 months, the combination of 3 days a week of aerobic training (cardio like running, cycling, and swimming) and strength training (lifting weights) improved HRV. Another study looking at physically inactive adult men showed significant HRV improvement with 20 minute High Intensity Interval Training sessions 4 times a week. Pick the training program that you get excited about and remember that one of the most important factors is frequency, meaning that you can’t get complacent and skip workouts. Consistency is key.
- Meditate. A number of studies have shown that 10 to 30 minutes of various meditation techniques significantly improved HRV. While the lasting effects of the meditations were not measured, a little bit is better than nothing. If sitting quietly alone isn’t your thing, download a meditation app or join a group class in person or online for guided meditation.
- Reduce or eliminate alcohol consumption. HRV has been shown to significantly decrease immediately following alcohol consumption. A review of studies showed that for people with alcohol use disorders, it took four months for HRV to improve. We know that the effects of alcohol can last as long as four days, so consider the frequency of your drinking.
- Visit your chiropractor. Studies have shown significant changes in HRV both short term and long term. Immediately following cervical adjustments and after 4 weeks of chiropractic care, people had increased HRV. Notably, in the 4-week study, participants had improvement in HRV regardless of change in pain levels. This means that even if you’re still experiencing pain after starting chiropractic care, stay the course, because your nervous system may still be significantly benefitting.