Mind & Body Tools to Optimize Your Life

The Best Activity to Increase your Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

The Best Activity to Increase your Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

Todd Becker of gettingstronger.org has his own view on what has the most impact on his Heart Rate Variability. He has experimented with different activities that lowered or increased HRV:

“Based on a review of numerous studies and extensive personal experimentation, I’ve learned some surprising things about what tends to raise or lower HRV. And I’ve found one few amazingly quick, effective, and to boost a low Heart Rate Variability (HRV) and keep it up, with real impact on adaptive reserves. “



Here are the things he has put to the test:

  1. Running on the treadmill for 30 minutes
  2. Lifting heavy weights for 30 minutes
  3. Eating a high carb meal (pasta, bread, ice cream)
  4. Eating a high fat, low carb, moderate protein meal (avocado and shrimp salad)
  5. Fasting for 12-20 hours
  6. Fasting for 48 hours
  7. Drinking a beer or glass of wine
  8. Drinking 3 beers or 3 glasses of wine
  9. Taking a cold shower for 2 minutes
  10. Soaking in a hot tub for 15-30 minutes


Cold showers are the most effective in boosting Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

For Todd Becker, the biggest improvement by far on his HRV were the cold showers:

“The activity that has delivered the single biggest improvement to HRV for me has been…cold showers!  This has also been the most consistent and most immediate of all the measures I’ve tried.”

“cold showers appear to have improved my stress tolerance, by buffering emotional reactions. What I mean by this is that bad news, surprises, arguments, or events that would have previously caused a brief surge in adrenaline or an emotional flush, no longer have that effect, or at most have a very attenuated effect.”


He’s not the only person claiming this. There have been other studies done that show cold showers boost HRV and activate the parasympathetic nervous system, calming reactivity and strengthening our adaptive reserves.

And according to Todd, they have more than just a temporary effect:

“The HRV-raising effect of cold shower is not transient. It really does a “re-set” and bumps your HRV up for hours.  If you take a cold shower before bed, you wake up with a similar HRV in the morning.”


His final advice on how to cope with daily stress:

“Jump into a cold shower or take a cold swim for a few minutes in the morning to arm yourself against the stresses of the day.”


You can find Todd Becker’s article here.


Becker is not the only one advocating cold immersion

Another person using the cold to increase HRV is Ben Greenfield, albeit he comes at it from a different angle. He is an athlete, and a low HRV is a first sign of overtraining. Cold immersion allows the body to recover from overtraining quicker:

Cold immersion can lower inflammation (…) which allows the body to bounce back faster from an overreached state.

In my case, I have access to a very cold river that currently runs at about 40-45 degrees Farenheit (4.5 – 7 °C), so when I saw those HRV scores begin to drop, I began full body immersion for 20-30 minutes a day, 1-2x/day (you can also achieve this in an ice bath if you live in a warmer climate without access to a cold body of water). I combined with wearing 110% compression tights and shirt filled with ice sleeves while I was sitting at home working.



One Response to The Best Activity to Increase your Heart Rate Variability (HRV)

  1. Good tips on boosting your HRV (heart rate variability). I would add breathing as a major technique to regulate and optimise your own HRV. We’ve developed an app called iTHRVE which measures your unique HRV and offers breathing cues to optimise it. It’s available on iTunes and it has extensive features to measure HRV over night, plus a host of other very useful functions.