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A good resting heart rate is generally between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). And when it comes to heart health, lower is usually better. For highly trained athletes, a heart rate as low as 40 bpm is common.
A high resting heart rate is often a sign of poor physical fitness, higher body weight, and high blood pressure. According to studies, it also increases the chances of heart disease, cardiovascular disease, heart attack, and premature death.
Knowing how to measure your resting heart rate can help identify potential health problems and heart conditions.
What is a Resting Heart Rate (RHR)?
Before we explain the “resting” part, let’s quickly cover “heart rate.”
Put simply, your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats every sixty seconds. Along with body temperature, blood pressure, and breathing rate, it’s one of the “vital signs” when it comes to monitoring body health — and knowing how to measure it can help you keep a close eye on your own physical fitness.
Your resting heart rate, therefore, is the number of times your heart beats when you’re at rest.
In this article, we explore what a good resting heart rate looks like at different ages, why measuring your heart rate matters, and talk you through how to do it yourself. But first…
Surprise! Your Heart is Kind of a Big Deal
As far as organs go, your heart is up there as one of the most vital. It pumps blood around your body via blood vessels, which delivers oxygen, nutrients and hormones to your cells, before removing waste products, like carbon dioxide.
A healthy heart helps you respond to certain situations by delivering the right amount of blood to your body when you need it most. For instance, when you’re confronted with danger, your body is flooded with adrenaline, which increases your heart rate. This pumps more blood around your body, preparing you to use more oxygen in a fight or flight scenario.
So, What’s a Good Resting Heart Rate?
According to the American Heart Association (AHA), a heart rate range between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm) can be considered normal.
The best time to check your resting heart rate is upon waking from a peaceful night’s sleep — before you do any exercise or down that first espresso.
Of course, there’s more than just physical activity and caffeine that can affect your heart rate. Medication (like beta-blockers), hormones, stress and anxiety can also send your heart all aflutter or slow it down. And if you’re an athlete (professional or otherwise) you may find that your resting heart rate is actually much lower than the average person (as low as 40 beats per minute).
Resting Heart Rate by Age:
From the moment we’re born, our hearts are working hard to keep us alive and support our growth and development. For the first month out of the womb, your normal resting heart rate would have ranged from 70 to 190 bpm, and for the first year, it would have been 80 to 160 bpm.
As we get older, our resting heart rate gradually decreases as the heart muscle grows in strength. According to the National Institute of Health, the normal resting heart rates by age are as follows:
- 1 to 2 years — 80 to 130 bpm
- 3 to 4 years — 80 to 120 bpm
- 5 to 6 years — 75 to 115 bpm
- 7 to 9 years — 70 to 110 bpm
Once we reach 10 years old, our heart rate should fall within the normal range of 60 to 100 bpm. This range is considered healthy for children (10+), teenagers, adults, and seniors.
Why Is Measuring Your Resting Heart Rate Important?
As a rule of thumb, lower is usually better when it comes to resting heart rate. All things being well, this should point to a strong and healthy heart function that doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.
However, when considered alongside other risk factors, such as high cholesterol and blood pressure, measuring your resting heart rate can provide a window into your current well-being, while also identifying potential health issues.
Case in point: A Danish study, published in 2013, followed 2,798 men over the course of 16 years, tracking heart health and cardiovascular fitness. The study found that a high resting heart rate (“tachycardia”) was linked with high body weight, higher blood pressure, and lower physical fitness.
It also discovered that a higher resting heart rate was “a significant predictor of mortality.” When compared to subjects with an RHR of 50 bpm and under, a person’s chances of a premature death doubled with a resting heart rate of 81 to 90 bpm, and tripled if higher than 90 bpm.
Meanwhile, a low resting heart rate (otherwise known as “bradycardia”) isn’t always a sign of peak physical fitness. If it’s accompanied by dizzy spells, fainting, or fatigue, you should speak with your GP or healthcare provider.
Calculating Resting Heart Rate: How to Check Your Pulse
Measuring your heart rate is as simple as taking your pulse — but remember that what you’re doing at any given time will impact your results. If you want an accurate measure of your resting heart rate, avoid checking your pulse during or immediately after exercising.
Instead, wait until you’re in a calm, relaxed state, or do it first thing after waking from a restful sleep.
And when it comes to taking your own pulse, your best bet for a reliable reading is either your wrist or your neck. Here you’ll find two common arteries (the radial artery in your wrist and the carotid artery in your neck) which expand and contract as your heart pumps blood through your body.
To check your pulse in your wrist:
- Hold out your hand with your palm facing upwards.
- Using your index and middle fingers of your other hand, press down lightly on the inside of your wrist.
- Move your fingers around until you can feel your pulse. Can’t find it? Press a little firmer.
To check your pulse in your neck:
- Using your index and middle fingers, press down lightly at the side of your neck, just beneath your jaw and next to your windpipe.
- Can’t find it? Move your fingers around or press a bit harder.
Remember: Don’t use your thumb to check your pulse — there’s an artery in there called the princeps pollicis artery, which means your thumb has its own pulse.
Once you’ve found your pulse:
- Use a timer on your smartphone and set it to either 30 or 60 seconds.
- Count the number of beats you feel for the full 60 seconds, or count the beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two.
- The result is your heart rate in beats per minute.
Help your body fight the good fight
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A good resting heart rate is anywhere between 60 and 100 bpm, but the lower end of that scale the better when it comes to general health and wellness.
And if you’re worried that your heart rate is too high (or too low) and you’re experiencing symptoms such as fatigue, dizziness, or fainting, seek medical advice from your GP or healthcare provider.
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