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Measuring heart rate variability
What normal ranges and measurement standards we use to interpret your heart rate variability
What normal ranges and measurement standards we use to interpret your heart rate variability
Mark avatar
Written by Mark
Updated over a week ago

To understand what to rely on in our calculations, we have thoroughly analyzed normal ranges and metrics to measure and evaluate heart rate variability (HRV) from an array of scientific sources. A detailed guide on the HRV metrics used by Welltory is available on our website.

Then, there are recent research papers on reference ranges for HRV in healthy adults, for example:

However, the above papers have their drawbacks:

  • They are small-scale. When performing data analysis, the researchers considered groups of up to 100 subjects only.

  • Scientists still argue what “normal” really means. Health is a relative and not an absolute state, and a lot of different factors can impact a healthy (i.e., normal) or unhealthy status for a particular individual. That’s why researchers still argue about what is meant by “normal ranges” or “population reference ranges.”

  • Some studies ignored additional yet critical factors that can affect your health, such as chronic illnesses or stress levels.

  • It’s next to impossible to dig up credible reference ranges for some rare scores such as AMo50 and MxDMn, because these scores are mostly used in studies focused on elite athletes, not healthy non-athletes.

Let’s take a closer look at RMSSD values (Root mean square of successive RR interval differences) to illustrate the issue. If we take a measuring time of 2.5–5 minutes, researchers have proposed the following normal ranges in different studies:

  • 13–48 ms — healthy adults aged 38–42 years

  • 35–107 ms — elite athletes

  • 53.5–82 ms — healthy men

  • 40.5–71 ms — men

  • 29–65 ms — women

  • 23–72 ms — men

  • 22–79 ms — women

These standard ranges vary considerably, and obviously can’t apply to everyone. If we try to unify them, the reference range for RMSSD would be 13–107 ms, which seems like a pretty broad generalization.

Welltory uses the reference range of 20–89 ms, which falls into the range mentioned above. Even though it's possible to get an RMSSD score that falls out of our range, it would most likely mean that your body is working overtime.

The same generalization issue happens with other not-so-common HRV scores like SDNN, pNN50, or Mean RR.

Such ranges seem too broad to be useful for everyday measurements because heart rate variability is an extremely sensitive metric. That’s why we’ve narrowed the typical normal ranges up to more specific ones.

To do so, we’ve analyzed over 60,000 RR intervals of more than 600 users and derived all the data from photoplethysmography signals in keeping with the following criteria:

Plus, our study included only the data of people who measured their HRV for at least 90 days. We then conducted data analysis to determine how the same person’s measurement results can vary depending on the time of the day, a healthy or unhealthy state, work, exercises, caffeine & alcohol intake.

It is worth pointing out that our narrowed normal ranges are also not personalized enough.

However, we realize how crucial it is to understand what’s going on with your body right now in the view of your previous trends and measurements. That’s why we offer you Stress, Energy, and Health scores that can reflect how you feel more accurately than reference ranges.

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