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What Your Normal Heart Rate Can Tell You

By Casey Meserve

What Your Normal Heart Rate Can Tell You

Your normal heart rate can tell you a lot about your overall wellness and conditioning. Learn what individual and external factors influence resting heart rate and tips on lowering your normal heart rate.

What is a normal resting heart rate?

For most adults, a normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Athletes' heart rates are often significantly lower, from 40-60 bpm. Children, however, have much higher heart rates than adults and as they grow, their heart rates decrease. A lower heart rate generally means that your heart function is more efficient and has to work less to pump blood.  

Factors that Influence Normal Heart Rate

  • Age: As we age our normal resting heart rate increases until about 40, then levels off. With aging, average beats per minute does not change drastically, but our hearts can’t beat as fast during physical activities.
  • Body size: Smaller adults may have faster heart rates due to their body and heart size.
  • Fitness and activity level: Athletes have lower than average resting heart rates, but any healthy adult working on their fitness level may notice their heart rate decreasing. Conversely, couch potatoes tend to have higher heart rates than the average person their age.
heart rate chart age gender
After 40 our normal heart rate does not change drastically. This chart shows normal resting heart rate for the average adult.

What Can Cause A High Resting Heart Rate

An abnormally high resting heart rate is above 100 bpm for most adults. WHOOP members tend to be more fit than average adults with the average resting heart rate for women wearing WHOOP is 58.8 bpm, and for men it’s 55.2 bpm. Several conditions or diseases can cause higher than normal heart rates for your age and gender, but other things can also increase heart rate, including:

  • Emotions: Overall mental health and emotions can affect heart rate. Depression and anxiety may also increase your heart rate and blood pressure.
  • Body position: Your heart rate will be higher when standing than when you’re lying down or sitting.
  • Smoking: Smokers typically have higher resting heart rates than non-smokers.
  • Medications: Many medications for cough, cold and allergies, thyroid diseases, antidepressants and asthma can affect normal heart rate in different ways.
  • Cardiovascular disease, diabetes or high cholesterol: Heart and circulatory system diseases that restrict blood flow and damage blood vessels can make your heart work harder to pump blood through the body.
  • Air temperature: Your heart rate generally increases 10 bpm faster for every degree Fahrenheit your body’s internal temperature rises. In hot weather, the body has a more difficult time getting rid of that heat through the usual ways, evaporation (sweating) and radiation (losing heat through the skin), so your heart rate can stay higher in hot weather.


Ways To Lower Your Resting Heart Rate

There are short and long-term ways to lower your normal heart rate. If you notice an unusual increase in your heart rate it may mean something such as a stressful situation is affecting it in the moment. Actions that temporarily decrease heart rate can have a cumulative effect.

  • Breathing: As little as one minute of deep breathing a few times a day can benefit your heart rate. Vagal breathing reduces your heart rate and stress.
  • Warm bath or shower: Taking a warm bath, just above body temperature, can lower heart rate. Hot water (above 105) however can increase your heart rate, but it has other benefits including lower blood pressure and improved heart function.
  • Drink water: Staying hydrated is one of the easiest ways to decrease your heart rate. It’s also one of the easiest things to forget. The average person usually needs between 0.5 and 1 ounce of water per day for every pound of body weight. Athletes need more.
  • Limit stimulants: Coffee increases heart rate and blood flow, and while it may help us wake up it also raises your resting heart rate. Limiting coffee to 1-2 cups and not drinking it after noon can help you avoid the jitters.
  • Exercise: Cardio or aerobic exercise and anaerobic exercise have different benefits, but they both help decrease resting heart rate.
  • Yoga and stretching: Yoga is an excellent way to relieve stress, it relaxes the body and mind as you focus on the positions and stretches. Like other forms of exercise, yoga decreases your resting heart rate over time.
  • Get outside: Going for a walk or a run fall under the category of exercise, but getting outside also helps. According to a 2013 study viewing scenes of nature improves autonomic function, including heart rate. City scenes don’t have the same impact though, so if you live in a city, finding a safe, quiet neighborhood or a park for your daily walk can have more than one benefit.
  • Diet: A diet high in green vegetables, lean protein, fruits, nuts and legumes can improve your heart health. Foods such as oily fish have healthy fats that help lower blood pressure and your normal heart rate.
  • Sleep: Getting enough sleep helps regulate your heart rate.
  • Reduce stress: When WHOOP members report stress, their resting heart rate increased 63% of the time with an average change of 1 bpm. Any of the above suggestions can both reduce stress and improve heart rate.
Kate Courtney yoga
Yoga is one way to lower your normal heart rate.

Monitor Your Heart Rate With WHOOP

WHOOP measures your resting heart rate while you’re sleeping using weighted averages towards your last period of slow wave sleep. This ensures you’ll get a consistent reading every night and better allows you to follow trends in resting heart rate over time. You can track these trends in the WHOOP app and use the Journal feature to note factors that may affect your heart rate, such as drinking alcohol, a healthy diet, or stress. The Health Monitor displays your key health metrics: resting heart rate, HRV, respiratory rate, blood oxygen, and skin temperature. WHOOP uses resting heart rate, HRV, respiratory rate, and sleep to calculate your recovery each morning. This can help you see and understand potential links between yesterday’s behaviors and how you perform today.   The products and services of WHOOP are not medical devices, are not intended to diagnose any disease, and should not be used as a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. All content available through the products and services of WHOOP is for general informational purposes only.