Pulse vs. HRV

What is the difference between a pulse and an HRV measurement?

Does a pulse measurement have the same significance as an HRV measurement? What does a pulse measurement say, what does an HRV measurement mean?

Definition Pulse

Pulse refers to the throbbing of the blood (caused by the heartbeat) on the vessel walls. This is due to the mechanical, rhythmic expansion and contraction of the arteries, which is due to the action of the heart and the pressure wave it causes.

“Heart rate or pulse measurement is based on recording the frequency of beats in one minute.”

Nevertheless, the heart rate is not the same as the pulse, although the term is often used interchangeably. The heart rate is only a partial aspect of the pulse and provides information about the number of heart beats per minute and is given in beats per minute (bpm). Another term that is often used interchangeably is the term heartbeat. The heartbeat, however, describes the pulse from beat to beat.

So-called heart rate monitors and many pulse belts often only deliver heart rate data in the sense of averages of electrical impulses lasting several seconds (in order to compensate for the effects of artefacts as far as possible). Although this is enough for training monitoring, it provides too little information for the use in lifestyle medicine.


Definition HRV

Heart Rate Variability (HRV) is a degree of the overall adaptability of an organism and thus a degree of health.

“The heart rate variability is calculated from the millisecond intervals between the individual heart beats.”

The control is done by activating the sympathetic nerve (in the sense of tension) and the parasympathetic nerve (in the sense of recovery). Responsible for accelerating or decelerating the heartbeat is the autonomic nervous system.

Therefore, you can determine very precisely via the HRV if and when someone is relaxed, concentrated or burdened.

What can an HRV measurement do, what a pulse measurement cannot do?

The above definitions show that a pulse or heart rate measurement cannot capture the subtle differences in the heartbeat sequence, and thus could not, by definition, provide the underlying data for an HRV analysis in a rudimentary form.

The results of the measurements and the graphs presented below illustrate the different significance of HRV and pulse:

HRV Diagramm mit Lebensfeuer

During TV activity in the evening, the measured has an average heart rate of 48. The low pulse itself may indicate relaxation. However, if you also look at the HRV analysis values – Total Power, VLF, and LF fall, HF and pNN50 increase significantly – you realize that the measured is tired.

HRV Diagram mit Lebensfeuer

During communication, the measured has a similar average heart rate as in the activity TV in the evening. If we only compare the value – 48 bpm for TV and 50 bpm for communication – we would say that the measured was tired at both times. However, if we also look at the HRV values here, then we see that all values – Total Power, VLF, LF, HF, pNN50 – increase significantly compared to the daily average. The measured is doing very well, he/she is highly concentrated and may even be in the flow.

The HRV spectrogram also clearly shows at first glance where the measured “burns” more. A high, dense and colorful LifeFire® during communication, in contrast to a reduced LifeFire®, stands for a high HRV and thus a high adaptability.


The results of the measurement clearly show how different causes and sensitivities can affect a person although it has the same pulse level. It is often the HRV that makes it clear what exactly lies behind the results. The informative value of HRV analyzes is therefore not comparable with statements from heart rate or pulse measurements.



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