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. This meta-analyses looked at 191 studies and concluded that regular endurance training and yoga helped lower RHR. It’s important that whatever the exercise may be, it should increase 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. Both short and long-term, stress has a significant impact on the heart by increasing RHR. It’s important to incorporate healthy habits and routines to keep stress and anxiety at bay and help maintain a healthy 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 your 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 the cardiovascular system. Cutting back or eliminating these habits altogether may have a positive impact on not only reducing RHR, but overall well-being as well.
2. Manage Weight. Maintaining a healthy weight promotes increased metabolic and energy efficiency and decreases strain on the heart; hence lowering RHR.
3. Meditation. Long, slow breathing can help regulate your 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 measuring biometrics at clinical-grade accuracy, so you can track and improve your performance and wellbeing better than ever.