What is it about?

This study looked at how heart rate variability (HRV), a measure of stress, changes during a demanding police training course. The course, which lasted 36 hours and included very little sleep, aimed to select officers for a specialist police unit. Out of six officers, only one completed the course. Researchers used a wearable chest-strap device to track the officer’s HRV throughout the course. They found that HRV, which tends to decrease with stress, dropped during a navigation exercise and a challenging march but increased during a pack march and rest period. The findings suggest that monitoring HRV could help police trainers understand how candidates handle stress and fatigue, which could improve the selection process for these tough roles.

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Why is it important?

This study is unique and timely because it applies heart rate variability (HRV) monitoring, a relatively new and advanced method, to evaluate stress in a highly demanding police training environment. In 2024, with increasing awareness of mental and physical health in high-stress jobs, this research stands out by offering a practical way to monitor and understand the stress levels of police officers during selection courses. The potential impact of this work is significant. By providing a holistic view of how candidates respond to extreme conditions, HRV monitoring could revolutionize the selection process for elite police units. It allows trainers and decision-makers to better assess not only the physical but also the mental resilience of candidates. This could lead to more effective training programs, better-prepared officers, and ultimately, a safer and more capable police force. Given the growing emphasis on occupational health and risk management, particularly amongst first responders, this study's insights are particularly relevant and could attract widespread interest from both scientific and professional communities.


This paper, although a single case study, represents a significant learning experience within the broader context of my PhD research on heart rate variability (HRV) in specialist police unit training. It highlights the practical application of detailed HRV analysis and data visualization, showcasing how these techniques can be used effectively even in challenging environments. Despite its limited statistical power, this study offers valuable insights for practitioners. In an era where modern wearable technology continuously generates vast amounts of data, our findings demonstrate meaningful ways to utilize this information to enhance training and selection processes in high-stress occupations. This work underscores the potential of HRV monitoring to inform better decision-making and improve the overall well-being and performance of specialist police officers.

Colin Tomes
Bond University

Read the Original

This page is a summary of: Heart rate variability profile changes associated with specialist police selection activities: A case study, Work, April 2024, IOS Press,
DOI: 10.3233/wor-230297.
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