• Team OurCheckup

What your resting heart rate informs you exactly

Even if you’re not an athlete, awareness of your heart rhythm will help you track your level of fitness, and it may even help you detect health issues that are emerging.

The amount of times that your heart beats per minute is your heart rhythm, or heartbeat. The natural heart rhythm ranges from person to person. It can be a significant heart-health gauge to know yours.

Changes in the rate and regularity of your heartbeat can change as you age and can indicate a potential heart attack or other condition that needs to be dealt with.

Normal Heart Rate

For adults, the average resting heart rate varies between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

A lower heart rate at rest usually means more healthy heart function and greater cardiovascular health. A well-trained athlete, for example, could have a natural resting heart rhythm of closer to 40 beats per minute.


Dr. Herbert J. Levine, posed in his 1997 paper “Rest Heart Rate and Life Expectancy.”. This was prompted by the discovery that mammals with a faster heart rate live shorter lives than those with a slower one.

His concern has not been addressed entirely to this day. However several new studies have found significant correlations between slower hearts and longer lives, bringing the resting heart rate to the level of an effective measure of fitness.

Animal Heartbeats Findings

A blue whale’s heart beats just twice a minute when it dives for food

The whale dived to a mean depth of 184 metres for as much as 16.5 minutes at a time and remained on the surface for periods of 1 to 4 minutes. When it was searching for fish, the whale’s heart rate was at its lowest and jumped up when it resurfaced, hitting a high of 37 beats per minute. Source: NewScientist

Cheetah has similar heartbeat with a jogging human

The cheetah is one of the fastest land animals, but, similar to a jogging human, its resting heartbeat is around 120 beats per minute. Here’s the difference: While a human heart needs some time to hit its max, normally 220 BPM, in just a few seconds, the cheetah will go up to 250 BPM. Source: NewScientist

How to check your normal heart rate?

Manual Check

Simply monitor your pulse to measure your heart rhythm. Place your index finger on the side of your windpipe and your third finger on your throat. To monitor your wrist pulse, put two fingers over your radial artery, which is located on the thumb side of your wrist, between the bone and the tendon.

When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four to calculate your beats per minute.

The best places to find your pulse are the:

  • wrists

  • inside of your elbow

  • side of your neck

  • top of the foot

To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.

Technology Check

People are more conscious than ever of their own resting heart rhythms with the rising prevalence of smartwatches and other monitoring devices, a metric described by the amount of heartbeats per minute when resting, such as whether you’re seated or lying down, no earlier than two hours after exercise. But it may not be so clear how exactly to view that number, and what to do with that detail.

In recent years, advances in technology are being increasingly introduced into watches. We now have smartwatches from traditional analogue watches that continue to pack more features than ever. Using just the current time and date, timepieces will now view your texts and other updates, monitor your steps and other tasks, and even track your fitness.

The watch uses a technology called photoplethysmography, or PPG, to calculate the heart rate, according to Apple. Essentially, by looking at the skin on your wrist, it checks how much red or green light it can see. Blood is red and it reflects red light and retains green light, because as your heart beats, your wrist will have more blood supply and more absorption of green light. There’s less green light absorption between heart beats.

What do you need to know?

The most known fact about resting heart rate is that the degree of physical health of an individual is inversely correlated with it. In other words, the fitter you are the lower the heart rate of your resting heart rate (elite athletes, for example, tend to have notoriously low heart rates). This is because the heart muscle gets stronger when you workout, which takes less heartbeats to pump blood.

Researchers assumed that there was no clear, causal link while attempting to find out the explanation why people with lower resting heart rates tend to live longer. The key theory among scientists was that individuals with a slower heartbeat only happened to be fitter, and what made them live longer was physical exercise.

Generally speaking, as we talk of resting heart rate, there is pretty clear proof that the better is lower. DR. MAGNUS T. JENSEN, HEAD OF THE DEPARTMENT OF CARDIOLOGY AT THE COPENHAGEN UNIVERSITY HOSPITAL AMAGER & HVIDOVRE

His team analyzed data from approximately 2,800 middle-aged men monitored in Copenhagen for 16 years. “Each person had a VO2 max assessment, which is a fitness level measure,” says Jensen. The evidence allowed them to believe that, regardless of physical exercise, there was indeed a clear correlation between maintaining a lower heart rate and a lower mortality risk.

Then what is a normal range for a resting heart rate considered?

A typical resting heart rhythm varies from 60–100 beats per minute, according to the American Heart Association. The majority of experts agree with that assertion, however, particularly on the higher end, it is not an absolute consensus. “I disagree politely with naming usual 95 or 100 beats per minute,” Barry A. Franklin, PhD, director of preventive cardiology & cardiac rehabilitation at Beaumont Health says, adding that this range could already be associated with a lower life expectancy.

The detailed Scripps Research study in PLOS found that what is considered “normal” for one individual could be anomalous for another individual. The average resting heart rhythms of individuals were observed to be as low as 40 and as high as 110 beats per minute. For a median of 320 days, the researchers took data from wearable devices worn by more than 92,000 individuals.

The research also highlighted that the resting heart rate of a person is reasonably constant over time, and so fluctuations from the normal rate may be a significant indication that something is wrong. “Not only for cardiovascular health, but also for pulmonary status, infectious disease detection, reproductive health, and possibly more the variability of the resting heart rate may provide additional information,” says Giorgio Quer, the study’s first author.

One of the research’s drawbacks were that it only monitored the “normal heart rate of the participant, without looking at their individual fitness. We do not have details about the individual’s health status, so we can not assume that “normal” means safe as well, says Quer.

In conclusion, it sounds like there’s still a lot of research to be done.

But it looks to us that keeping your resting heart rate low can be a positive goal to have. So, work on improving your cardiovascular fitness and this can surely be achieved!

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