How To Measure Your Resting Heart Rate
Originally published August 4, 2016 1:39 pm, updated April 16, 2020
The general rule for resting heart rate is: the lower the better. But, how to know how low or high your resting heart rate is? Heres how you can prepare for measuring your resting heart rate and how to do it in five steps.
Two Caveats To Keep In Mind
If you notice a change in your resting heart rate but none of the scenarios above seem plausible, there are two other factors that may be playing a part: age and medication.
Resting Heart Rate Increases With AgeMost of the time your RHR can be modified. Unfortunately, as you get older, your RHR tends to increase. To reduce the impact that aging can have on your cardiovascular system, you can help maximize your results by exercising within your target HR zone to help lower your resting heart rate.
Medication Affects Resting Heart RateChanges in your resting heart rate can also result from over-the-counter or prescription medications. Medications to treat asthma, depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder tend to increase your RHR. However, medications prescribed for hypertension and heart conditions typically decrease your resting heart rate.
This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.
Maximum And Target Heart Rate May Not Be The Most Accurate Measures
The limitations of these measures, Osborne says, is that everyone’s heart is different. In reality, some 30-year-olds might be fine with a heart rate upwards of 176 bpm, while others’ muscles cramp up if they get above 146 bpm.
Normal heart rate varies from person to person and not all experts agree on what “normal” means.
“It’s very individualized depending upon your own muscles and genetics,” Obsorne says. “Looking at heart rate to predict, ‘Am I in the zone or not?’ is just not terribly accurate, unfortunately.”
For those who want to increase endurance by hitting their anaerobic threshold, it’s better instead to ask yourself: Do my muscles hurt? Am I breathing OK? Can I still carry on a conversation?
To measure your personal limits, you can also do cardiopulmonary stress testing, where a doctor measures how well your heart and lungs are working while you exercise on a stationary bike or treadmill. This involves hooking you up to an electrocardiogram, a blood pressure cuff, and a mouthpiece to measure your breathing.
Since both your heart and lungs respond to the energy demands of exercise, measuring them in this way tells your doctor how well your body is working to absorb the added stress, according to Stanford Health Care.
The test is often done by professional athletes, Osborne says. “If you can move that number and improve the efficiency of the muscles, that can mean you run faster, you perform better.”
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Resting Heart Rate As A Sign Of Overtraining
One of the first signs youre overtraining may be an increase in your resting heart rate. The best time to check your resting heart rate is upon awakening in the morning before getting out of bed. The best way to do this is to place your hand at the side of your neck or on your wrist and count the number of beats for 20 seconds. Multiply the value by 3 to get your heart rate for one minute.
Write your resting heart rate down into your fitness journal, so you can follow it over time for changes. If you track your resting heart rate for a few days and its more than five points above its baseline, you may be pushing yourself too hard during your workouts and not giving your body a chance to fully recover. Give yourself a rest day or two and see if your resting heart rate comes down.
Outside factors that can cause your resting heart rate to rise, other than stress, is dehydration or fever. The rise in heart rate from a fever may be quite pronounced. Some health conditions can do it too, including an overactive thyroid, certain heart conditions, lung conditions, and anxiety. Some medications can change your resting heart rate too.
Analyzing Your Resting Heart Rate
The point of measuring your resting heart rate is to evaluate your recovery status and the development of your aerobic fitness. When you do the test under the same or very similar circumstances, it will help you monitor your current recovery status, possible overload state and whether your fitness has improved.
As your level of fitness improves, your resting heart rate typically goes down about 12 beats for every 2 months.
It is not uncommon that your resting heart rate is up by 25, sometimes even 57, beats per minute during hard training periods compared to a well-recovered state.
During a less intensive week, the resting heart rate should fall back to where it was during the previous less intensive week, or hopefully even slightly below that. As your level of fitness improves, your resting heart rate typically goes down about 12 beats for every 2 months.
For beginners, it might be even more if they simultaneously lose weight and improve their nutrition.
If you want an easy way to gauge your current fitness level, consider taking the Polar Fitness Test regularly.
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When To See A Doctor
A consistently low heart rate is called bradycardia. In healthy young adults or trained athletes, a low heart rate with no other symptoms is usually the sign of a very healthy heart muscle.
However, a low heart rate can be a sign of a serious underlying problem. If your heart rate is lower than 60 bpm and youre experiencing chest pain, call 911. If youre experiencing dizziness, weakness, fainting, or other concerning symptoms, call a doctor.
A consistently high heart rate is known as tachycardia. Its normal to have an elevated heart rate when youre exercising, stressed, anxious, sick, or have consumed caffeine.
Its not normal to have a heart rate over 100 bpm when youre resting, especially if youre also experiencing:
How To Lower Your Resting Heart Rate
How can you dial down a resting heart rate? Lifestyle changes can boost heart health and lower your pulse.
1. Get moving
Exercise is the number one way to lower resting heart rate, says Dr. Singh. The most common cause of a high resting heart rate is a sedentary lifestyle, one where you spend a lot of time not moving.
And being in poor shape can increase the risk of other problems, including obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes. To give your heart a healthy workout, the American Heart Association recommends at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous activity.
The more you exercise, the stronger your heart becomes. Since its pumping more blood with each beat, it wont need to pump as hard, which will lower your heart rate, she says.
2. Manage stress
Anxiety and stress can elevate the heart rate, too. To help bring it down, try to bring calm to your day, Dr. Singh says. Practice mindfulness, try to meditate or do breathing exercises.
3. Avoid caffeine and nicotine
Stimulants like caffeine and cigarettes can drive your heart rate up, Dr. Singh says. Cutting back may help lower your resting heart rate.
4. Maintain a healthy weight
The more weight you carry, the harder your body has to work to move blood through the body especially if you dont have a lot of muscle mass, Dr. Singh says. Losing weight can help bring down your heart rate.
5. Stay hydrated
6. Sleep well
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What Is A Good Resting Heart Rate By Age
A healthy resting heart rate is about 60 beats per minute, but this number varies with age. The normal range for a resting heart rate is between 60 bpm and 100 bpm. Well-conditioned athletes, however, could have a resting heart rate of around 40 bpm.
If having a low resting heart is key for health and longevity, how can you lower your resting heart rate naturally?
How Does A Health App Measure Heart Rate
The Health app can measure your heart rate and all you need to do is place your fingertip on your phones camera lens and the app will detect the colour change on your fingertip each time your heart beats . Then, it uses the information collected to calculate your heart rate but if you are using the Apple Watch it may measure your heart rate automatically.
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A Higher Resting Heart Rate Can Be Concerning
Several studies have confirmed that the higher your resting heart rate, the greater your risk of death. Most of this risk is due to heart disease, but other causes of death also contribute to the risk. One study showed that a RHR of more than 90 beats per minute was associated with higher heart disease death rates .
What’s A Normal Heart Rate
Most adults have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100bpm.
The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate is likely to be. For example, athletes may have a resting heart rate of 40 to 60bpm, or lower.
See a GP to get checked if you think your heart rate is continuously above 120bpm or below 40bpm, although it may simply be that this is normal for you.
Visit the British Heart Foundation for more information on checking your pulse.
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High Resting Heart Rate: Should You Worry
In general, a slower resting heart rate is a sign of good health. Some athletes and people who are very active even have heart rates that dip below 60 when theyre at rest.
A high resting heart rate, on the other hand, can be an indicator of problems such as:
- Poor physical condition.
- Thyroid problems.
Often, a high resting heart rate is a sign that your heart is working harder than it needs to. Like any muscle, the heart doesnt work as well when its out of shape. In people who arent very active, the heart isnt as efficient. It has to work harder to pump blood through your body, Dr. Singh says.
How Do I Change My Heart
To start, your thresholds are based on your age and typical resting heart rate. To adjust your thresholds:
As with all heart-rate tracking technology, accuracy is affected by personal physiology, device location on your arm, and type of movement.
For a more accurate heart-rate reading:
- Wear your Fitbit device on top of your wrist, and make sure the back of the device is in contact with your skin.
- When youre not exercising, wear your device a fingers width above your wrist bone.
During exercise, wear your device a bit tighter and higher for an improved fit. The band should be snug but not constricting . Many exercises such as bike riding or weight lifting cause you to bend your wrist frequently, which could interfere with the heart-rate signal if the watch is lower on your wrist.
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What Is Your Activity Level
Your target heart rate depends on how physically fit you are. For example, if you are not active and not physically fit, your target heart rate is a little lower than the target heart rate of someone who exercises every day. This tool gives you a range of what your target heart rate is, based on how much you usually exercise.
To find your target heart rate range, you will choose the category that best matches your level of physical activity. The categories are:
- Not active. You do less than 30 minutes of light activity no more than 2 times a week. Cleaning house, slow walking, and playing golf are examples of light activity.
- Moderately active. You do up to 30 minutes of light to moderate activity 3 to 5 times a week. Brisk walking, jogging, riding a bike, swimming, and playing tennis are examples of moderate activity.
- Very active. You do more than 30 minutes of moderate activity at least 5 times a week.
How Do I Calculate My Heart Rate
To calculate your target training heart rate, you need to know your resting heart rate. Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when its at rest. The best time to find your resting heart rate is in the morning after a good nights sleep and before you get out of bed. Typically, an adults resting heart rate is 60-100 beats per minute. However, for people who are physically fit, its generally lower. Also, resting heart rate usually rises with age.
- The best places to find your pulse are the wrists, inside of your elbow, side of your neck or top of your foot.
- To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.
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What If I Am Concerned About Some Of The Readings
Remember that your Apple Watch is not meant to help diagnose any medical conditions. However, we know how frequent it is to get alarmed by a reading we considered to be too high or too low and the best thing we do at that moment is google our heart rate. However, we strongly recommend to avoid doing that and instead, seek medical advice.
What Is A Normal Resting Heart Rate
A normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 beats per minute and 100 bpm. An abnormal pulse rate below 60 bpm or above 100 bpm could increase your risk of cardiovascular disease, stroke, or early death.
Normal Resting Heart Rate for Women
The normal resting heart rate for adult women is similar for men, between 60 bpm and 100 bpm. Age and activity level are more important factors for heart rate.
Studies show that having high resting heart rate increases your risk even after controlling for other factors such as physical fitness, blood pressure, and lipid levels.
Is a resting heart rate of 80 bad? A bpm of 80 is still within the normal range, but over 90 can be dangerous.
One study tested the resting heart rate of about 3,000 men over 16 years. The study found that, after accounting for other risk factors, men with a resting heart rate over 90 bpm were three times more likely to die than the men with the lowest RHR.
Further, an increase in heart rate over time is associated with an increased risk of death from heart disease and all-cause mortality.
Is A Low Resting Heart Rate Good Or Dangerous?
At the other extreme, one study found that having a low resting heart rate is a risk factor for atrial fibrillation in athletes.
Having a heart rate below 60 bpm doesnt mean that youre not healthy. For example, a low RHR could be the result of taking a drug such as a beta-blocker. Moreover, athletes generally have lower heart rates.
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What Factors Can Affect Resting Heart Rate
Several factors can affect resting heart rate: stress, alcohol or caffeine intake, or fever usually raise resting heart rate, while regular exercise or meditation can lower it. Air temperature and certain medications can also affect resting heart rate.
Heart-rate zones, which are percentages of your maximum heart rate, can help you determine the intensity of your workout or activity.
How To Check Your Heart Rate: A Healthy Maximum And Target Heart Rate During Exercise
- The wrist or neck is usually the easiest place to check your heart rate.
- To calculate the upper limit of what your body can handle during vigorous exercise, aka your max heart rate, subtract your age from 220.
- Your heart rate for extended periods of exercise, aka your target heart rate, should be between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate.
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Checking your heart rate is as simple as taking your pulse. According to John Osborne, MD, a Dallas-based cardiologist, routinely checking your heart rate sets a baseline for you to better understand your cardiovascular health.
If you know your general heart rate, and if it goes out of kilter, that can give you a warning a heads up to say, I need to look into this,’ Osborne says.
Heres how to check your resting heart rate, and calculate your max and target heart rate when exercising.
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What Is A Healthy Resting Heart Rate For An Adult
A normal resting heart rate for adults lies somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute , and varies based on age group and gender. Women’s heart rates are about 2-7 BPM faster than men’s on average.
Generally speaking, you want to keep your resting heart rate as low as possible. One large, long-term study compared men with heart rates above 90 and those below 80. The men with higher average heart rates were associated with triple the risk of death.
People with lower heart rates tend to be more active and get more exercise than others. A young, highly-trained athlete’s healthy resting heart rate may be as low as 40 BPM.