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Resting Heart Rate: Importance and Implications

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What is the resting heart rate and how to measure it?

The resting heart rate is the number of contractions of the heart in a single minute while at complete rest. Most smartwatches, sports watches and fitness trackers with an optic Heart Rate Monitor measure your resting heart rate. Apple has been the latest company to introduce this feature in WatchOS 4.

According to different medical associations, the normal resting heart rate (RHR) for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). Individuals with a higher degree of physical fitness may have a lower RHR of 40 to 60 bpm. The resting heart rate tends to increase with age.

Why is the resting heart rate important?

The resting heart rate is an indicator of both current and future health status.

As an indicator of future health status, medical studies have shown that a RHR in the higher half of the “normal” range, that is a RHR between 80 and 100 bps, indicates a higher probability of cardiac risk and sudden death.

Regarding current health status, there are two aspects to look at:

  • If your RHR is below 60 bps, then it means you are physically fit and your heart muscle is in good shape. It does not need to contract as often to pump the required blood through your circulatory system.
  • If your RHR is trending up during a period of at least three to five days then it means that:
  • Either your body is fatigued: you must reduce the intensity level of your exercise.
  • Or you are incubating some type of disease.

How to reduce your RHR? Exercise. What type? High-intensity aerobic training. According to Harvard University’s health blog high-intensity aerobic training in adults has proven to be more effective, even if it is only one hour a week, than low-intensity aerobic training (i.e. walking at moderate pace) to reduce the RHR.

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