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What Is a Healthy Resting Heart Rate?

Resting heart rate

Resting heart rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm) while at complete rest—measured either when sitting or laying down for a period of several minutes. RHR is a metric that is a useful tool as a predictor of both overall health and fitness level. Here’s everything you need to know about a healthy resting heart rate.

5 blood biomarkers all athletes should know

The normal range for resting heart rate is wide—but the lower the better

A normal RHR for most adults ranges from 60 to 100 bpm according to the American Heart Association, whereas other studies indicate the higher end of the normal range to be 90 bpm. [1, 2] A lower resting heart rate is considered more favorable, as it is indicative of a heart that is more efficient and exerts less effort to pump blood. But heart rate can vary greatly between individuals based on a number of factors, so someone's typical RHR may fall outside of this generalized rage—especially on the lower end for athletes. There are several factors that influence whether your heart rate falls at the higher or lower end of this range. 

 

Factors that influence heart rate

Heart rate, even at rest, isn't static. The heart is a muscle, and like other muscles in the body, it shifts in response to a changing environment and stressors. Some stressors may strengthen the heart muscle, making it more efficient at its job and, therefore, lowering RHR. Other stressors can decrease the muscles' efficiency. These include:

Age: Resting heart can increase with age, and an elevated RHR increases risk of all-cause mortality and cardiovascular disease. [3]

Sex: On average, males tend to have a lower RHR than females. In general, women have smaller hearts than men, and therefore have less cardiac muscle and a lower volume of blood pumped with each heartbeat. Female hearts therefore tend to compensate by increasing heart rate to circulate blood. The average adult male RHR is between 70 and 72 bpm, whereas the average adult female RHR is between 78 and 82 bpm. [4]  

Food choices: Intake of omega-3 fatty acids, namely from fatty fish, has been shown to lower RHR. Eating two servings of fatty fish a week is recommended to protect against cardiovascular disease. [5]

Sleep patterns: A regular sleep routine that ensures sufficient high quality sleep can impact RHR. One study found that delaying bedtime by just 30 minutes more than usual can significantly elevate resting heart rate during sleep. [6]

Hydration status: Dehydration can elevate RHR, which is a sign that the heart is working harder to distribute blood to the rest of the body. [7]

Alcohol consumption: Consuming alcohol has been linked to a higher RHR. One study of over 3,000 Munich Oktoberfest attendees showed that the more alcohol people drank, the higher their heart rate. [8]

Physical activity: Heart rate has long been used as a tool to assess fitness and athletic performance. As fitness level increases, RHR has been shown to decrease—with some athletes clocking an RHR as low as 30. [9]

What impacts your resting heart rate

More on the impact of exercise and heart rate

Regular aerobic exercise is known to have a number of health benefits, including a reduction in RHR. [3] In fact, it's perhaps one of the strongest modifiable factors for lowering RHR. And these heart rate benefits can be seen from various types of exercise—you don't have to be an elite athlete to see them. Participating in different types of aerobic exercise, yoga, and high-intensity interval training can all help you achieve a normal resting heart rate. [10-12] 

These changes in aerobic fitness and heart health can also be easily monitored thanks to the advent of wearable fitness technology. VO2max, the amount of oxygen the body can consume during maximum effort, is considered to be the gold standard for measuring aerobic fitness. Importantly, low RHR is correlated with an improved VO2max, and people with higher levels of fitness are more likely to have a lower RHR [3]. This correlation enables wearable fitness tracker technology to use heart rate measurements to monitor fitness level trends without needing to calculate VO2max directly—which typically requires complex tools.

An important note: while regular training is important for achieving an optimized heart rate, overtraining or overreaching can have the opposite effect and lead to an elevated RHR. [13]

 

What you need to know about RHR and health

A normal RHR is a well-known indicator of overall health for both athletes and non-athletes alike. Research has linked a higher resting heart rate to elevated stress and cortisol levels, which have relationships with negative health outcomes including hypertension, increased cholesterol, decreased insulin sensitivity, and increased blood sugar levels. [14, 15]

Importantly, incremental changes in RHR can have a big impact on overall health. A 2016 meta-analysis found that an RHR over 80 beats per minute (BPM) was significantly correlated with an increased risk for all-cause and cardiovascular mortality, and every 10 BPM increase in resting heart rate increased the risk of death by 9%. [16]

Here are steps you can take to improve your RHR

How resting heart rate impacts health

How to calculate your heart rate 

Technology has made RHR calculation readily available—wearable fitness trackers or smart watches often continuously monitor and track heart rate. But you can also calculate your resting heart rate without technology. Here's how:

  1. Lay or sit down for several minutes to ensure you're truly in a resting state
  2. Place your index and middle fingertips on your wrist in line with your thumb between the bone and tendon (there's an artery there so you should feel a pulse)
  3. Count the number of pulses over 30 seconds
  4. Double that number to get your RHR

Determining your ideal heart rate for exercise using maximum heart rate 

Now that you know what your heart rate is at rest, you may be curious about what your heart rate should be during exercise. That's where the metric maximum heart rate comes in. Maximum heart rate is the average maximum BPM your heart should pump during exercise. 

Maximum heart rate can be easily estimated based on your age—the rule of thumb is to subtract it from 220. For example, the estimated maximum heart rate for a 33-year-old would be 220-33=187 BPM. Next, you can use this number to calculate your target heart rate for exercise. 

According to the CDC, during moderate-intensity physical activity, an individual should be working at 64%-76% of estimated maximum heart rate. This can be calculated by using the following equation, using the above example:

64% max HR: 187 x 0.64= 120bpm

76% max HR: 187 x 0.76= 142bpm

For vigorous physical activity, an individual should be working between 77%-93% of their estimated maximum heart rate. This can be calculated by using the following equation:

77% max HR: 187 x 0.77= 144bpm

93% max HR: 187 x 0.93= 174bpm [18]

The American College of Sports Medicine recommends that healthy adults engage in moderate-intensity physical activity for a minimum of 30 minutes 5 days a week and vigorous-intensity physical activity for a minimum of 20 minutes 3 days per week. [19]

If you’re new to exercise or have any health concerns that could be affected by getting your heart rate up, be sure to consult your healthcare provider to determine what a safe and effective approach is for you. 

 

Summary: 

  • Resting heart rate can be a predictor of both overall health and aerobic fitness
  • Having a normal RHR is important for both athletes and non-athletes alike
  • An elevated resting heart rate can impact blood sugar, cholesterol, and cortisol levels
  • RHR can be impacted by a number of factors and can be used as an individualized daily metric to adjust lifestyle and nutrition behaviors

Connecting to InsideTracker


02.22_RHR Feb Social_IG Story 5-minWhen you connect your fitness tracker with the InsideTracker app, you can track your resting heart rate levels and will receive science-backed recommendations on how to improve them. Connecting your fitness tracker to the InsideTracker app also allows you to track and improve other health metrics like sleep metrics, exercise, and more. 

Don’t have a fitness tracker? You can estimate your RHR using the method described above and add your RHR level to the “Lifestyle” section of your InsideTracker profile to receive health insights. 

Combining your RHR data with your most recent bloodwork reveals how your biomarkers are impacting—and being impacted by—your RHR. Optimizing biomarkers like cortisol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, blood glucose, and HbA1c can help. InsideTracker’s Ultimate plan allows you to measure these biomarkers and gives you science-backed recommendations to optimize these biomarkers. You can also choose a health focus area like overall health or the heart health goal to prioritize recommendations that help you improve or maintain a healthy heart.




 

 

 



StevieLynSmith-1

Stevie Lyn Smith, MS, RDN, CSSD, CDN 
Stevie Lyn is a Content Strategist and Team Nutritionist at InsideTracker. As a Registered Dietitian and Ironman triathlete, she enjoys combining her passions to help educate others on how to fuel for overall health and performance. When she’s not swimming, biking, or running with her dog, you’ll find her in the kitchen working on a new recipe to improve her biomarkers.

References:

[1] https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/all-about-heart-rate-pulse

[2] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31304404/

[3] https://openheart.bmj.com/content/6/1/e000856 

[4] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25302188/

[5] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/22051327/

[6] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/32219180/

[7] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23968198/

[8] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/33738543/

[9 ]https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23303759/

[10] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/30513777/

[11] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/31440168/

[12] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/28963884/

[13] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/23195630/

[14] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/11499115/

[15] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25973404/

[16] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/26598376/

[17] https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/18317923/

[18] https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm#1

[19] https://www.acsm.org/education-resources/trending-topics-resources/physical-activity-guidelines#:~:text=ACSM%20and%20CDC%20recommendations%20state,on%20three%20days%20per%20week.