Resting Heart Rate can be a strong indicator of overall health and fitness—here are the essentials on why you measure it and how to lower it.
For decades, athletes and trainers have obsessively tracked Resting Heart Rate (RHR) as an indicator of athletic performance, but a low RHR is an important vital sign which indicates overall good health.
Resting Heart Rate is a measure of how fast the heart beats per minute (bpm) while standing, sitting, or lying down — but not sleeping — and best measured first thing in the morning. The average adult will have an RHR between 60-100 beats per minute, while athletes are likely to rest somewhere between 40-60 bpm. And the lower, the better, as RHR indicates the health of the heart leading to overall longevity, lower risk of heart attack, higher energy levels, metabolic efficiency, and athletic endurance.
What Affects Resting Heart Rate?
1. Regular Exercise. At least 1 hour of sustained aerobic exercise (such as brisk walking, cycling, or jogging) three times per week will help maintain a lower RHR. It’s important that whatever the exercise, it increases heart rate for an extended period of time.
2. Hydration. Staying hydrated helps with blood viscosity and allows the blood to flow through the body more easily, exerting less stress on the heart.
3. Sleep. During consistent, uninterrupted sleep, the body rests, repairs, and recovers. Poor or inconsistent sleep can be a large contributor to elevated RHR, putting stress on the heart.
4. Diet. A balanced diet full of healthy fats and low sodium keeps arteries clear, leading to lower RHR and less work for the heart.
5. Stress. Over the short and long-term, stress can create extra work for the heart, increasing RHR. It’s important to keep stress and anxiety low to maintain a strong RHR.
Why Measure RHR?
As with most body metrics, Resting Heart Rate offers insights into your overall health, indicating general wellbeing as well as potential health risks which can inform your daily lifestyle choices.
For athletes, knowing your RHR as well as your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) can help dictate heart rate based training zones. Spikes in RHR can indicate when overtraining has occurred and an athlete should take a rest day, something else in a training regiment is amiss, or can even indicate an oncoming cold or illness.
How to Lower RHR
It’s important to maintain an active lifestyle with regular aerobic exercise, a balanced diet, regular sleep, and hydration. If RHR is high, these are the first factors to assess. Beyond the basic lifestyle factors, a few other steps can be taken to significantly lower RHR:
1. Alcohol and smoking. Regular drinking and smoking increase stress on the heart and cardiovascular system. Cutting back or eliminating these habits altogether than dramatically reduce RHR.
2. Manage Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight creates increased metabolic and energy efficiency within the body, decreasing strain on the heart and lowering RHR.
3. Meditation. Long, slow breathing can help regulate heart rate and over time works to decrease RHR as well.
Resting Heart Rate is an important measure of overall wellness for both athletes and anyone focused on a healthy lifestyle. At Biostrap, we’re dedicated to putting you in control of your health by delivering accurate metrics so you can track and improve performance and wellbeing.