Resting Heart Rate: What’s Normal, Why It’s a Sign of Fitness, How to Improve It

May 7, 2020

What is Resting Heart Rate?

Resting heart rate (RHR) is a measure of your average heart beats per minute (bpm) while your body is in a state of complete rest. It is a very useful metric for monitoring your fitness level and overall health. Generally speaking, a lower resting heart rate is a good sign.

Below we’ll examine what is a healthy resting heart rate for men and women, what’s average or “normal” for both, and break it down by age. We’ll also discuss why RHR is an indicator of your physical fitness, what you can do to improve it, plus the most reliable and effective way to track it.

 

Normal Resting Heart Rate

 

The American Heart Association states that a normal resting heart heart rate is usually between 60 and 100 beats per minute. However, for athletes and people who are active, this number may dip closer to 40 bpm.

It’s also worth noting that the average resting heart rate for women tends to be a bit higher than for men. This is because females typically have slightly smaller hearts, which in turn produce less blood flow with each beat and must pump faster to reach the same output.

Additionally, there is often a slight increase in RHR with age.

 

Average Resting Heart Rate Chart

 

What is a good resting heart rate by age? The graphic below depicts the average resting heart rate by age for male and female WHOOP members between 20 and 50 years old.

A chart depicting the average resting heart rate for men and women between the ages of 20 and 50, as tracked by WHOOP.

Across all ages, the average resting heart rate for men wearing WHOOP is 55.2 bpm, and for women it’s 58.8 bpm.

Given that our members tend to be athletes and/or people who are particularly interested in monitoring their health and well-being, it’s no surprise that the normal resting heart rate for men and women on WHOOP is below what the AMA considers average.

 

Why a Low Resting Heart Rate is a Sign of Fitness

 

To put it simply, “When your heart rate goes down, it means that each heart beat is more effective” (Podcast 29: HRV). A low resting heart rate is an indication of a strong heart muscle that can pump out a greater amount of blood with every beat so it does not have to beat as frequently.

Your physical fitness is directly correlated to the strength of your heart. When your heart is in better condition and doesn’t need to work as hard to push blood throughout the body and deliver oxygen to your muscles, your fitness improves.

 

What Does a High Resting Heart Rate Mean?

 

Just as a low RHR is a sign of a stronger heart, a high resting heart rate may signify a weaker heart muscle. Research indicates that in the long-term, an elevated RHR likely adds to the risk of mortality.

In the short-term, the following factors can increase resting heart rate:

  • Strenuous exercise or overtraining
  • Stress and anxiety
  • Sleep deprivation and fatigue
  • Dehydration
  • Caffeine or alcohol consumption
  • Smoking cigarettes or use of certain drugs
  • Illness or underlying health conditions
  • Medication side effects

However, having an above-average resting heart rate compared to others is not necessarily a cause for concern. A recent study showed that normal RHR from one individual to the next may vary by as much as 70 bpm.

 

How to Improve Resting Heart Rate

 

By far, the No. 1 thing to do for lowering resting heart rate is exercise. In particular, aerobic exercise like running or cycling (activities you can sustain for long periods of time at 70-80% of your max heart rate) will assist you in building cardiovascular strength.

Additionally, each of the behaviors below can help you decrease your RHR:

In general, anything you can do to reduce stress and manage anxiety will benefit your resting heart rate.

 

Track and Measure Resting Heart Rate with WHOOP

 

Your heart rate fluctuates constantly and increases with activity, so accurately monitoring RHR on your own can be quite difficult (especially if you’re looking to get a consistent reading every day and compare them over time).

WHOOP measures your resting heart rate each night during your last period of slow wave (deep) sleep, when your body is in its most restful state. This allows for as controlled and reliable a reading as possible. You can track your resting heart rate trends in the app, and note behaviors that may impact your RHR in the journal feature.

Additionally, WHOOP uses your resting heart rate (along with heart rate variability and sleep performance) to calculate your recovery each morning--almost like a daily weather forecast for your body.

 

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WHOOP is not a medical device, our products and services are not intended to diagnose illness or any other health problems, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Mark Van Deusen

Mark Van Deusen (120 Articles)

Mark Van Deusen is the Copy Manager at WHOOP. Before joining WHOOP, Mark served as the Managing Editor and Head Writer for CelticsLife.com. He was also a Featured Columnist for Bleacher Report and a contributor at Yahoo Sports. A former tennis coach, Mark graduated from the University of Richmond with a degree in Sociology and Leadership Studies.

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