Resting heart rate (or pulse rate) is the rate at which your heart beats when awake and resting. It is expressed as the number of beats per minute (bpm), with the normal adult range considered to be between 60 to 100 beats. A rate slower than 60 is considered slow, and conversely considered high when greater than 100. The respective medical terms for this are bradycardia and tachycardia.
During rest, your body requires a lower amount of oxygen and energy compared to when you’re active. As a result, your heart doesn’t need to pump blood as forcefully or rapidly. The resting heart rate reflects the efficiency of your heart in delivering oxygenated blood to the body’s tissues without straining itself.
Resting heart rate varies among individuals and can be influenced by various factors such as age, overall health, fitness level, and genetics. In general, a lower resting heart rate indicates better cardiovascular fitness. Well-conditioned athletes or individuals who engage in regular aerobic exercise tend to have lower resting heart rates since their hearts are more efficient and can pump a greater volume of blood with each beat.
As stated, a healthy resting heart rate for adults typically ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (with lower values being more favorable). However, well-trained athletes may have resting heart rates as low as 40, or even 30, due to their increased cardiovascular fitness. On the other hand, a consistently elevated resting heart rate above the normal range may indicate underlying health conditions, such as heart disease, stress, dehydration, or thyroid problems, and should be evaluated by a healthcare professional.
Numerous studies have demonstrated that an increased heart rate at rest is associated with cardiovascular morbidity and mortality as an independent risk factor. In turn, a decrease in heart rate produces benefits in congestive heart failure, myocardial infarction, atrial fibrillation, obesity, hyperinsulinemia, insulin resistance, and atherosclerosis. Furthermore, resting heart rate and how it changes over time is associated with mortality risk from not only cardio vascular disease, but others such as breast, colorectal and lung cancer. Consequently, regular monitoring of resting heart rate may have utility in identifying individuals at higher mortality risk.
It’s easy to check your pulse using just your fingers. Lightly press the index and middle fingers of one hand on the opposite wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count the number of beats you can feel in 15 seconds, and multiply by four. This gives you your heart rate in beats per minute.
Your daily heart rate is affected by a number of factors and a couple of important points to consider are:
- Do not measure your heart rate within one to two hours after exercise or a stressful event.
- Wait an hour after consuming caffeine, which can cause heart palpitations and a rise in heart rate.
Both genetics and exercise play an important part in developing a slow heart rate. It has been demonstrated that the affect of aerobic exercise increases with increasing intensity, with significant reductions being seen within a 10 week period. Triathlete and marathon runner, Daniel Green of the United Kingdom, currently holds the World Record for the slowest heart rate at 26 bpm. (Though the official Guinness World Record for the lowest resting heart rate is held by Martin Brady, 45, from Guernsey UK, whose heart-rate measured 27 bpm.)
It is a common belief that over-training results in an increase in (morning) resting heart rate – with ‘threshold’ figures of 7 or more being mentioned. However, there does not appear to be any clear evidence of this, and so this ‘fact’ should be taken with caution.
References & Further Reading
- Maximum Heart Rate.
- Brito Díaz B, Alemán Sánchez JJ, Cabrera de León A. Frecuencia cardiaca en reposo y enfermedad cardiovascular [Resting heart rate and cardiovascular disease]. Med Clin (Barc). 2014 Jul 7;143(1):34-8. Spanish. doi: 10.1016/j.medcli.2013.05.034. Epub 2013 Aug 9. PMID: 23937816.
- Seviiri M, Lynch BM, Hodge AM, Yang Y, Liew D, English DR, Giles GG, Milne RL, Dugué PA. Resting heart rate, temporal changes in resting heart rate, and overall and cause-specific mortality. Heart. 2018 Jul;104(13):1076-1085. doi: 10.1136/heartjnl-2017-312251. Epub 2017 Dec 21. PMID: 29269380.
- Cornelissen VA, Verheyden B, Aubert AE, Fagard RH. Effects of aerobic training intensity on resting, exercise and post-exercise blood pressure, heart rate and heart-rate variability. J Hum Hypertens. 2010 Mar;24(3):175-82. doi: 10.1038/jhh.2009.51. Epub 2009 Jun 25. PMID: 19554028.
- Gleeson M. Biochemical and immunological markers of over-training. J Sports Sci Med. 2002 Jun 1;1(2):31-41. PMID: 24688268; PMCID: PMC3963240.
- Jeukendrup A, VanDiemen A. Heart rate monitoring during training and competition in cyclists. J Sports Sci. 1998 Jan;16 Suppl:S91-9. doi: 10.1080/026404198366722. PMID: 22587722.