Resting Heart Rate and Fitness

Taking Resting Heart Rate

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Your resting heart rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm) while at complete rest. It is an indicator of your physical fitness. Your resting heart rate will decrease as your heart becomes stronger through aerobic exercise training.

A low resting heart rate indicates better fitness in people who are in athletic training or a workout program, but it can have other health significance for people who are not physically fit (when it is often called bradycardia).

Normal Resting Heart Rate

A healthy resting heart rate for adults is 60 to 80 bpm. Adults with a high level of fitness can have a resting heart rate below 60. Some elite endurance athletes (such as marathon runners or professional cyclists) have a resting heart rate below 40.

An average adult resting heart rate range is 60 to 100 bpm. The higher end of the range is associated with increased health risks including metabolic syndrome.

An elevated resting heart rate of 80 bpm or higher can be an indicator of increased cardiovascular risk and all-cause mortality risk. The risk is most pronounced when the resting heart rate goes above 90 bpm.

Resting heart rate varies by sex. Women tend to have smaller hearts and lower blood volume and hemoglobin, which means the heart needs to beat more frequently to nourish the body's tissues.

A person's average resting heart rate also changes from throughout the lifespan, being much faster in infants and slowing by adulthood. The average ranges also change slightly as you age.

Your resting heart rate can also be affected by any medications that you take. For example, beta-blockers and calcium channel blockers can lower your resting heart rate below 60, while medications to treat asthma, depression, and attention deficit disorder might raise it.

Talk to your doctor if you do not actively exercise but you have a low RHR with symptoms of dizziness or shortness of breath.

When someone who is not an athlete or at a high level of fitness has a low resting heart rate (especially with other symptoms), it can be a sign of a medical or health problem.

Bradycardia has many causes but usually improves when the underlying condition is diagnosed and treated. In some cases, a low resting heart rate might be caused by an abnormal heart rhythm, which might require a pacemaker to fix.

What Your Resting Heart Rate Means

Your resting heart rate will become lower as your fitness level increases. Vigorous aerobic exercise, such as running or cycling, has the most effect on lowering your resting heart rate. Moderate-intensity exercise such as brisk walking has less effect.

RHR is lowered as the heart muscle becomes stronger and gets better at pumping out more blood per heartbeat. The body needs fewer heartbeats to pump the same amount of blood. If your heart muscle is weak, it needs to beat more times to pump the same amount of blood.

If you are tracking your resting heart rate and see it rise, there could be several causes that aren't related to your fitness level, including:

  • Being sleep-deprived
  • Dehydration or in cases of high heat and humidity
  • Developing an illness or a medical condition
  • Mental, emotional, or physical stress

Exercise Recovery and Overtraining

Athletes sometimes monitor their RHR to help them determine when they have fully recovered from a hard workout or race. Since they already know their usual RHR, they can monitor it and see when it returns to normal (sometimes after a day or more after a workout or event).

A resting heart rate that is 5 bpm above your usual RHR indicates that you may need more recovery time.

A high resting heart rate is a sign of overtraining. Your resting heart rate may be elevated for one or more days after a vigorous endurance workout, such as running a 10K race or walking a half-marathon. You may want to delay another hard workout until your resting heart rate has returned to its usual value.

Fitness monitors and apps that record resting heart rate daily can use that data to give you a notification when you are ready for another hard workout. If you aren't fully recovered, the app might recommend a light intensity workout instead.

Resting Heart Rate Charts

The heart rate charts below are organized by sex, age, and fitness level. The data comes from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). You can use it to see where your resting heart rate falls on the fitness spectrum.

Men

Age 18-25

Athlete: 49-55

Excellent: 56-61

Good: 61-65

Average: 70-73

Poor: Over 82

Age 26-35

Athlete: 49-54

Excellent: 55-61

Good: 62-65

Average: 71-74

Poor: Over 82

Age 36-45

Athlete: 50-56

Excellent: 57-62

Good: 63-66

Average: 71-75

Poor: Over 83

Age 46-55

Athlete: 50-57

Excellent: 58-63

Good: 64-67

Average: 72-76

Poor: Over 84

Age 56-65

Athlete: 51-56

Excellent: 57-61

Good: 62-67

Average: 72-75

Poor: Over 82

Over Age 65

Athlete: 50-55

Excellent: 56-61

Good: 62-65

Average: 70-73

Poor: Over 80

Average resting heart rate for men by age.
Women

Age 18-25

Athlete: 54-60

Excellent: 61-65

Good: 66-69

Average: 74-78

Poor: Over 85

Age 26-35

Athlete: 54-59

Excellent: 60-64

Good: 65-68

Average: 73-76

Poor: Over 83

Age 36-45

Athlete: 54-59

Excellent: 60-64

Good: 65-69

Average: 74-78

Poor: Over 85

Age 46-55:

Athlete: 54-60

Excellent: 61-65

Good: 66-69

Average: 74-77

Poor: Over 84

Age 56-65

Athlete: 54-59

Excellent: 60-64

Good: 65-68

Average: 74-77

Poor: Over 84

Over Age 65

Athlete: 54-59

Excellent: 60-64

Good: 65-68

Average: 73-76

Poor: Over 84

Average resting heart rate for women by age.

Children and Adolescents

According to the CDC, these are the normal ranges and average resting heart rates for newborns, kids, and teens:

  • Newborn to 1 month: 70-190
  • 1 to 11 months: 80-160 (average 128 for males, 130 for females)
  • Age 1-2: 80-130 (average 116 for males, 119 for females)
  • Age 3-4: 80-120 (average 100 for males, 99 for females)
  • Age 5-6: 75-115 (average 96 for males, 94 for females)
  • Age 7-9: 70-110 (average 87 for males, 86 for females)
  • Age 10-15: 60-100 (average 78 for males, 83 for females)

How to Measure Your Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate should be taken first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Your pulse rate will rise if you do any activity—including getting up, eating, drinking, or smoking.

To get a true resting heart rate you must be completely still and calm. If something like an alarm startled you awake, lie quietly for a few minutes before you take your pulse.

If you cannot take your pulse immediately after awakening, wait for one to two hours after having any caffeine, exercising, or dealing with an emotional stressor. Lie down or sit quietly for at least 10 minutes before taking your pulse.

To take your pulse, you will need a device that counts seconds, like a clock or watch that has a second hand or displays the seconds. You can also use the stopwatch or clock app on your smartphone.

Taking Your Pulse

To take your pulse manually, place your index and middle fingers on your wrist below the base of the thumb. Apply gentle pressure until you detect the pulse.

You can also place those two fingers just to the side of your Adam's apple in the hollow area and pressing gently until you detect the pulse.

Now count your heartbeats.

If you count for a full 60 seconds, you can get your resting heart rate without doing any math. You can also count for these intervals and do the calculations:

  • Count your heartbeats for 6 seconds and multiply by 10.
  • Count your heartbeats for 15 seconds and multiply by 4.
  • Count your heartbeats for 30 seconds and multiply by 2.

There are also apps such as Azumio Instant Heart Rate that use the flash on your smartphone to take your pulse. The app coaches you through the process which makes it easy, and the apps can be fairly accurate.

Similarly, many fitness bands and smartwatches have LED heart rate sensors that measure your resting heart rate or your heart rate on demand. These sensors are more or less accurate depending on whether you are wearing them snugly enough.

It is best to check readings for several days using the same method. This will help you determine if any single reading appears to be inaccurate.

A Word From Verywell

Your resting heart rate can be a useful number to know and monitor when you start a fitness program. Track it over time and let it guide you as to whether you need more recovery time after a hard workout.

While you likely don't need to worry if there are some daily fluctuations, long-term trends can indicate how well you are progressing on your fitness goals. If you are worried about your heart rate, talk to your doctor. A high resting heart rate can also indicate that you are overtraining or that you have an underlying medical condition that needs attention.

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Article Sources
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