Ask Anytime: Why Resting Heart Rate Matters

Doctor Taking Pulse

Question: How do I figure out my resting heart rate, and what is a typical range for adults?

First things first: It’s important to understand what resting heart rate actually is and what it can tell you. Your resting heart rate is an indicator of the fitness level of your cardiac muscles. At rest, it illustrates how fast the heart needs to pump to provide the lowest amount of blood necessary to sustain minimal activity. A typical resting heart rate for an adult ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute.

To find your true resting heart rate, you would need to have someone watch you sleep and capture your lowest heart rate during deep rest. As you can imagine, this is difficult to do! Instead, most practitioners suggest finding your pulse and counting the number of heartbeats in a minute as soon as you wake up, while still lying in bed. Please keep in mind, it’s important to wake naturally for best results. No alarm clocks or dogs licking your face!

The best places to find your pulse are your wrists, inside your elbow, and the side of your neck. Press your index and middle finger lightly into one of these areas and count the beat of your heart for one minute. If one minute seems like an eternity, count for at least 15 seconds and do the math (multiply by 4).

Try to track your resting heart rate over time (a minimum of three readings) to find your average resting heart rate. This number should decrease as you become more fit, indicating your heart is stronger and able to supply more blood per “pump.” That also means you require fewer heartbeats to circulate the blood you need.

How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate

Finding and understanding your resting heart rate is one thing, but it’s even more crucial to know how to improve this number to strengthen your heart. Here are a few significant ways you can work toward lowering your resting heart rate.

1. Exercise

Any type of exercise will strengthen your heart, thereby reducing your resting heart rate. Interval training, aerobic exercise (walking, jogging, biking) and strength training will all have a positive affect.

2. Reducing Stress

Managing your stress will help reduce your resting heart rate over time. Try meditation, yoga or lower intensity exercise to lower your stress levels.

3. Lowering Your Weight

Excess pounds make your heart work harder. Working your way toward a healthier weight will lighten the load on your cardiovascular system, thus lowering your resting heart rate.

Based on the three strategies mentioned, you may have noticed that a regular exercise program is the best way to create and maintain a healthy resting heart rate!

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Shannon Fable, 2013 IDEA and 2006 ACE Instructor of the Year, is a fitness business and programming consultant who has helped impressive brands such as Anytime Fitness, Schwinn®, Power Systems, ACE, and BOSU® over the last 20 years. As an experienced educator and certified Book Yourself Solid® Business Coach, she helps fitness entrepreneurs navigate the industry and make more money. Fable, a member of the ACE Board of Directors, is the owner of GroupEx PRO®, a cloud-based group fitness management tool, and Balletone®.