What better time than Valentine’s Day to discuss matters of the heart? Or in the context of WHOOP, specifically heart rate and other corresponding measurements. We decided to examine our members’ heart rate data from February 14 of last year in order to see what impact Valentine’s Day might actually have on the heart.
Since Valentine’s Day 2020 fell on a Friday, we used the averages across several other Fridays before and after to establish a baseline. For the most part, we found that WHOOP members’ HR stats on V-Day were fairly typical compared to the norm.
Average HR (Full Day) – The average heart rate over the course of the entire day was 73.6 beats per minute, nearly identical to baseline (73.5 bpm).
Max HR – The average max heart rate achieved during the day was 159.4 bpm, again almost the same as usual (159.6 bpm).
Strain – There was no change at all in our members’ overall cardiovascular exertion on Valentine’s Day. The average day strain was 10.7 (on a 0-21 scale), equivalent to baseline.
While we didn’t uncover anything notable in HR data on Valentine’s Day, we did find some intriguing numbers relating to the day after. On average, WHOOP member recovery on Saturday, February 15 was 58%, a full 4% higher than normal (the baseline from surrounding Saturdays was 54%).
One of the key factors used in determining daily WHOOP recovery (a metric for how prepared your body is to perform) is heart rate variability, or HRV for short. The average HRV for our members on February 15 of last year was 65 milliseconds, a 6.6% increase from normal (61 ms).
Are there things we do or behaviors we generally abide by on Valentine’s Day that are beneficial to our heart rate variability?
WHOOP VP of Performance Science Kristen Holmes wrote a piece last year entitled “Self-Rule” Choices You Can Make to Increase HRV. In it she states:
“Accessing feelings of gratitude, doing random acts of kindness, and reliving positive experiences directly activates brain regions associated with the neurotransmitter dopamine. Dopamine is our energy neurotransmitter and we need appropriate levels to feel energetic and excited about life. It is also an important communication mediator at the neural-immune level.”
Expressing gratitude, acts of kindness and recalling positive experiences are all certainly activities commonly associated with Valentine’s Day. As is “engaging in relationships that bring you value,” another of the choices Kristen discusses. “People who nurture and support your core values and enable autonomy will help relieve harmful levels of stress,” she says, and stress is a known inhibitor of heart rate variability.