HRV is a powerful metric that provides unique insights into your body’s response to stress. If you’ve read our guide to HRV, you may be curious about how to improve HRV. However, HRV isn’t as simple as, “How high can you go?” Instead, having more consistent HRV values from day to day is a better signal of an enhanced ability to respond to daily stressors.

With that in mind, how can you improve your HRV and make it more consistent?

READ MORE: What Is Heart Rate Variability (HRV)?

5 Easy and Effective Ways to Improve Your HRV

1. Exercise regularly.

One of the most effective ways to lower your resting heart rate and increase your HRV is to stay active. Regular exercise a few times per week can improve HRV at any age and is one of the most effective, established ways to make progress for more sedentary individuals.

If you’re already very active, rather than aiming for a higher HRV score, focus on incorporating HRV monitoring into your training routine and watch your HRV consistency. A consistent HRV is an important indicator of heart health, and can lead to improved athletic performance.

Member Tip: Oura member and marathon runner Raj K. was able to increase his HRV from the low 30s to the 40s by incorporating low heart rate runs.

2. Sleep well.

Good sleep is just as important as exercise. Several studies have shown how sleep deprivation, or simply lower sleep quality, is associated with reduced HRV. So, especially when something like a new exercise regimen or work-related stress begins to add strain to your day — recovery becomes essential.

You should aim for 7 to 9 hours of sleep a night, but the quality of your sleep also matters. When you track your sleep on Oura, you can see a detailed breakdown of how you slept, including how long it took you to fall asleep, and how much REM sleep you got. These insights can inform your sleeping habits to help you maintain a steady HRV over time. 

READ MORE: How To Get Better Sleep

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3. Eat healthy foods.

Activity, sleep, and diet are the three pillars of a healthy lifestyle. What we eat and when we eat can have a significant impact on our sleep and resting physiology (heart rate and HRV). While individual needs can vary, try avoiding processed foods and late, large meals, as these have been shown to reduce HRV.

Instead, opt for a diet rich in plants, protein, healthy fats, and complex carbohydrates, and get most of your nutrition from whole food sources (rather than processed!).

4. Breathe deeply.

Deep breathing techniques (everything from yoga, mindfulness, meditation, or biofeedback) can effectively strengthen the parasympathetic system (your “rest and digest” network), resulting in improved HRV. While putting these techniques into practice, keep in mind that your HRV is likely going to be higher during the activity itself than your nighttime values. This is especially true when breathing close to our resonant frequency, which is typically six breaths per minute.

The research is still emerging on if these daytime HRV increases can reliably improve your resting, nighttime HRV, but it’s one of the many tools you can access easily and is definitely worth exploring.

For some, the breathwork just works. Check out this example of HRV expert Marco Altini’s data showing an increase in weekly and monthly HRV while practicing deep breathing for up to 40 minutes a day.

READ MORE: 5 Simple Breathing Techniques for a Good Night’s Sleep

5. Practice stress management.

HRV can be an indication of your stress levels. This is because stress causes sympathetic nervous system dominance, which reduces variability in your heart rate. So, on days when your HRV is a bit lower than usual, try to prioritize stress management and recovery. This might involve reducing your training intensity, avoiding caffeine, or simply taking extra care of yourself. These small steps can lead to a more stable HRV over time.

Member Tip: Oura members can track their daily stress levels using Daytime Stress, found in the home tab of the Oura App.

Using Oura in HRV Tracking

If you have an Oura Ring, there are multiple ways you can explore how your body is responding to stress and start making adjustments that can improve your HRV:

  • Look for sharp increases or drops in your average nighttime HRV; it can provide clues into how your lifestyle is impacting your body.
  • Look for an upward trend in your nighttime HRV trace, a sign that your body is recovering while you sleep.
  • Look for lifestyle practices that encourage HRV consistency in your HRV Balance.

HRV can be an indicator of overall heart health, so improving this metric over time can help to boost your longevity. Gain further insights into your overall heart health by using Oura’s new heart health features: Cardio Capacity and Cardiovascular Age.

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Remember: HRV is Highly Individual

Many of these HRV tips have worked for a variety of people. However, HRV is highly individual, so remember always to compare your HRV to your own averages and avoid comparisons to others.

As often happens when we try something new, it’s also important to experiment and see what works for you, your body, and your lifestyle. Improving our physiology takes time; each of these habits might take several weeks to build and deliver benefits, but exploration will only help you find what’s best for your health!

LEARN MORE: What is the Average HRV?