6 Things Your Resting Heart Rate Can Tell You About Your Health

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is a number you may not think about very often. But what if I told you it’s one of the most important numbers you should know. Not only can your resting heart rate be used to track your fitness level and target your workouts, but it can also alert you to a variety of potential health issues. So get to know your resting heart rate—and what’s normal for you—through the Fitbit app and then learn how it can help inform your health.

6 Things Your Resting Heart Rate Can Tell You

You’re Not Active Enough
A normal resting heart rate for the average adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm) or 40 to 60 bpm for highly conditioned athletes. If you’re sedentary most of the day, your RHR likely approaches or exceeds the top end of this range. This may be  because your heart is less efficient. The good news? By regularly engaging in moderate to vigorous aerobic activities (brisk walking, biking, swimming), you will help your heart  become more efficient at pumping blood, plus you might shed a few pounds, all of which will lower your resting heart rate over time. Even modest reductions in resting heart rate can dramatically reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease and add years to your life!

You’re Overtraining
While pushing your body can lead to great gains, it can also be detrimental. If you notice an increase in your resting heart rate when you’re going heavy on the training and light on the rest, your body may be telling you that you need to scale back. By giving it the proper rest it needs, your body can repair and adapt and you may bounce back  stronger than ever.

You’re Too Stressed
Prolonged mental and emotional stress can also cause your resting heart rate to creep up over time. If “fight-or-flight” mode becomes your norm, the associated increase in your resting heart rate can produce a higher risk of heart attacks, strokes, and much more. Try adding relaxation into your day—read, meditate, go for a walk with friends, or do a guided breathing session on your Fitbit Charge 2 or Fitbit Blaze . Regular relaxation activities may help you combat your stress and which could lead to a lower resting heart rate.

You’re Sleep Deprived
Always exhausted? Chronic sleep deprivation—which can lead to fatigue, a lower metabolism, and extra snacking—can also raise your resting heart rate.  Aim for at least 7 hours of sleep each night.

You’re Dehydrated
During a hot summer day, if you notice a temporary increase in your resting heart rate, your body might simply be trying to cool down. However, it could also mean you’re dehydrated—especially if you’re thirstier than usual, your mouth is dry, and your pee is more yellow than normal. To help lower your resting heart rate, drink more water.

You’re Developing a Medical Condition
If you experience shortness of breath, unusual fatigue, dizziness, excessive thirst/urination and your resting heart rate has increased, you might be at risk for cardiovascular disease, hyperthyroidism, or type-2 diabetes. However, a low resting heart rate isn’t always ideal either. When combined with symptoms (like those above), it could indicate an issue with the electrical system of your heart. If you’re concerned, discuss these changes with your doctor.

Two Caveats to Keep in Mind

If you notice a change in your resting heart rate but none of the scenarios above seem plausible, there are two other factors that may be playing a part: age and medication.

Resting Heart Rate Increases With Age
Most of the time your RHR can be modified. Unfortunately, as you get older, your RHR tends to increase. To reduce the impact that aging can have on your cardiovascular system, you can help maximize your results by exercising within your target HR zone to help lower your resting heart rate.

Medication Affects Resting Heart Rate
Changes in your resting heart rate can also result from over-the-counter or prescription medications. Medications to treat asthma, depression, obesity, and attention deficit disorder tend to increase your RHR. However, medications prescribed for hypertension and heart conditions (beta blockers, calcium channel blockers) typically decrease your resting heart rate.

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  • I’m ashamed to say I didn’t know anything about this until after I was given a fitness tracker. I notice my low point each day really changes with training. It generally gets lower as I progress through a training cycle and bumps up a bit around peak week and finally gets a bit lower during the taper period. Once I knew about it and saw this happen I was still sort of surprised to see it work. Very cool. It’s good to keep track of too because it’s the only early warning sign you are over training and headed for injury!

    • Didn’t know much about your resting heart rate but my fit bit tells me it’s been holding at 55 for several months and I’m 80, so I guess I’m a pretty happy camper.

  • Hi All,

    My resting rate vary b/w 74 to 77 up down , up down.

    I really don’t know if it is fine , please suggest if it is constant for all?

    BR/Rahul Mishra

  • After wearing Fitbit for 2 1/2 mo. I loved keeping up with walking exercise… however it does seem to give me more credit then I deserve !! I don’t think it is accurately calculating my actual steps? I have it boxed up to return! Can you comment on this?

  • I turned 72 this month, and my resting heart rate remains at 71 throughout my summer months. On very rate occasions, my RHR went down to 61. The question is, “How reliable is my Fitbit with its readings?” I have used my Fitbit since December of 2016.

    Vance

  • I am 72 years old this month (September), and my resting heart rate (RHR) reads 71, but on rate occasions, it read 61 and 64. The question is, “How reliable is my Fitbit?” I purchased my Fitbit in December of 2016. The RHR doesn’t seem to change that much.

  • Very useful info. What effect does attitude play? I have a low resting heart rate at sea level, but after backpacking and sleeping at 11,000 feet, I noticed my resting heart rate was a lot higher than normal and only came back down after some very concentrated deep breathing exercises and meditation.

  • Another factor that influences RHR is altitude. I moved from Houston (60 feet above sea level) to Flagstaff, AZ (~7000 ft) and my rate went up 6-8 bpm and stayed there. I recently went to the beach for a week and it went back down.

  • I have found a very reliable way to tell how my thyroid is functioning, I was exercising regularly, yet my RHR was high. Once I was diagnosed with Hyperthyroidism or Graves’ disease, it was a way to monitor my response to medication, take too much RHR drops into 40, don’t take enough RHR jumps to 60s-70s.

  • I’m excited to have the RHR of a highly conditioned athlete. I’ve been working out and eating healthy for almost a year and it is paying off. BTW I just turned 57 years old.

  • I think it would be worth mentioning that for women, I believe the resting heart rate increases significantly during the fertile period. Good to know if you’re trying to get pregnant, or if you are not on artificial birth control

  • My Fitbit pinpointed the exact time I went into Atrial Flutter, followed by a prolonged period of high pulse rate. Sorry to say, the medical people did not react to the charts I showed them of my erratic, 150 bpm pulse and my denial did not send me directly to Emergency. Ended up with acute heart failure. Have learned to watch the Fitbit much more closely. It was right – something was wrong – my bad for not reacting to it.

  • Just as a related note: Fitbit has the raw data to also track heart rate recovery which is another indicator of fitness. Apple just announced this in the new WatchOS. Hopefully, Fitbit can fast-follow on this one.

  • What if my resting heart rate is too low? I am 66 moderately active and about 30lbs overweight and was on a low dose beta blocker for BP and my resting HR was in the mid to low 40’s. My Doc was concerned and did an EKG which was fine but I’ve now changed BP medication and it’s up in the low 50’s with occasional forays into the low 60’s. I am in no way an elite athlete, should I be concerned?

  • Hi there I am an out of shape 52 year old woman. My average rate is 57.I have been working out with weights and tracking for 7 month. Why is it so low. It is an accurate reading.

  • I am 55 turning 56 my heart rest is usually at 51, is that good?, I clean houses 4 days out of the week and walk up to 10 miles a day. Plus I have emphazima. So is this good

  • I am loosing 1 ppm-RHR about every 3 years. I used to have 30 rhr, now lowest is 41 rhr. Looks like will be 50 rhr when i get old.

  • I’m seventy, and my resting heart rate is about 52. A very low resting heart rate can lead to other difficulties, including blood clots in your legs. I know – I’ve had them. My resting heart rate when I’m asleep and very tired is in the middle thirties, which is recognized as inadequate circulatory rates. It’s best to get a very good night sleep -7 hours is a minimum, and then can maintain at least a 40 plus heart rate. The good thing is the Fitbit watches provide some insight into all this, and give me something to discuss with the cardiologists.

  • I’m 73 years old, turning 74 in December. I’m on a heart medication (metoprolol), but I use my treadmill at least 6 mornings per week for 1 hour each morning (3.01 mph), and an elliptical trainer for 15 minutes each morning (4.0 miles). My average resting heart rate is 61 – 65 BPM. It’s increased a bit over the past year; it used to be 59 BPM. I haven’t always been into fitness; I “saw the light” when I had my aortic valve replaced and my mitral valve repaired in June of 2010. Since then, I have been faithful to my workout routine, and monitor my vital signs twice a day (BP, pulse, temperature, oxygen saturation). In 2012 I got my first Fitbit, and am now on my second, the One. I honestly couldn’t get by without it. When I had the valve surgery I weighed 237 pounds. I now weigh 130. I’ve kept within two pounds of 130 for over two years. I owe a lot of this success to Fitbit. Thank you!

  • I’m 76 and hit the elliptical 5 days a week and follow 15 min on treadmill. My RHR ranges from 46-52. I’m thinking it pays to exercise hard.

  • Here is one more: When I have episodes of atrial fibrillation (which I can feel the instant they start up, and when they end – usually lasting 5-12 hours), I can actually see that in the heart rate monitor, as a spike up, a sustained higher than normal rate for me, followed by a slow decline over several hours once the episode is over.

  • Fitbit probably saved my life. Resting HR was 94 when my Staff gave me a FitBit for Christmas 2015. 18 months later it’s average 60 but often 48-50. I’m 64, lost 42 lbs, eating a mainly plant based diet, walk 50 miles+ a week and couldn’t be more pleased with life. Starting to work out and running the BolderBoulder 10K in May 2018 in under an hour (I could not run 100 yds a year ago) So, thank you FitBit for giving me that wake-up call that others never got. Sincerely. John

  • The Fitbit makes me conscious all day of my pulse. I love it for this reason and many others. The Fitbit is my new toy. It keeps me active and my daily goal is at least 10,000 steps. The Fitbit prods me to keep moving so my 70 year old body feels younger.

  • This was good information more clearly and concisely explained than I had seen before. With so much unfounded information around, it’s especially important to read of the author’s credentials. This article helps me make better use of my Fitbit!

  • I like the ability to track my RHR — as I write this, it is at 55, the rate for yesterday including sleeping was 50 (my usual range is 50-54). I am a 72 year old racewalker. For sleeping, I try to make it at least 6:15, but I am thinking of trying for a 6:30 average. I try to either do 10,000 steps a day, or 70,000 per week, but weather can and does impinge.

  • what does it mean when your resting heart rate is in the 50’s and you are old, overweight and a couch potato. I am on a beta blocker which lowers heart rate but before taking it, my heart rate was in 60’s.

  • Sometimes the resting heart rate is a fallacy.
    I’m not a conditioned athlete…. not even an athlete and my resting heart rate is an average of 52. Even when I was 140kgs.

    Some of my old clients where amazing athletes (I was a massage therapist) and heart rate was set in 70s.

  • Can one’ resting heart be too low? Mine has been around 40 for a long time. I am reasonably fit (fairly intense aerobics and bush walking) and aged 71.

  • I have noticed also that pain increases my resting heart rate. If I have more pain than usual from joints or arthritis, my heart rate goes up

  • i think this is interesting as my RHR is around 65 and i would say that i am not the most active person around, so i am guessing that my heart is still in good shape then.

  • What about those of us who are not highly conditioned athletes, but who have lower resting heart rates in the 50s? I have hypothyroid and am in my 50s and have lower heart rates in the 50s. I walk a lot (at least 15,000 steps per day, but I am not a highly conditioned athlete…. Should I worry about being lower than average.

  • I’m 69 years old and not an athlete but my RHR averages 48. My Dr. doesn’t seem worried but my daughter is. The only thing that I have heard of to fix it is a pacemaker and I don’t want that.

  • I am loosing 1 bpm for rhr every 3 years looks like. I was at 30 rhr when young, now 41 rhr and will be about 50 rhr when get old. Assuming health stays in excellent condition and fit body.

  • Thanks for your article which arrived at the right time as a very helpful validation. The correlation between stress and elevated RHR is a valid factor. Thanks to technology like the one the Fitbit offers people have a way to get a warning things are not doing ok.

  • After giving up alcohol for a month I noticed that my RHR had gone down to around 60. As soon as I started having a wine with meal again, it went up to 70-75. I’m an old girl and walk everywhere and since I bought my Fitbit HR have noticed a big improvement in RHR.
    It used to be around 90. Thanks to FitbitHR I’m really getting on top of things.

  • May I suggest there may be another reason for a low resting heart rate. Individuals can have Atrial Fibrillation with a low capture rate and not beware of the condition. If a non-athlete, with known or unknown cardiac disease, does have a low resting heart rate (below 60 bpm), they need to discuss it with their Primary Care Provider. Linda Copeland, R.N.

  • Thanks to Fitbit I found I had an abnormally low heart rate for my age. Finding a Beta Blocker for HBP was the problem. My life has changed for the better getting off of this medication. All due to desperation and Fitbit.

  • I’d also like to add that for women, your menstrual cycle plays a role as well, during the 2 weeks before your period starts you may start to noticed a gradual increase (for me it increases gradually by about 6 points within that period), but right after my period end it goes right back down. If you view you monthly RHR stats in your dashboard you should be able to see the trend.

  • I have been paying close attention to my RHR since wearing my Fitbit. I have noticed an increase in my RHR whenever I drink alcohol. Can you please give me a physiological reason for this?

  • THANKS! I’m 69 years old and my RHR has been running around 55 BPM; however, this past week it’s up to 57 BPM, does that small increase mean anything? My guess it no, but at what point should i start to be concerned?

  • How about including a well balanced diet with fresh food cooked at home,reduced calories and sugary drinks and food. “you are what you feed your body” I am active physically,cook and eat 3 meals daily and healthy snacks,very important ,be well Americans

  • I have my resting BPM between 52-58, mostly 53. I am 61 yo. I push myself hard at spinning class. The Fitbit marks 165 bpm during the hardest phase. I move from diabetic to prediabetic. My A1C is 6.4. The Fitbit keeps me motivated to get my goals every day.

  • What if your RHR is low but you are not a conditioned athlete? Also, if my RHR is 50-60, what should be my peak HR? I have noticed that when my HR gets around 170-180, i get dizzy and short of breath. Deep breathing and active recovery help, but I feel that after I get one of these episodes I don’t train as hard.

  • MY BIKE RIDING, 40 MILES EVERY OTHER DAY, SEEMS TO BE KEEPING MY RHR TO THE READING I JUST LOOKED AT ON MY FITBIT: 45. AT AGE 80 THE BIKE RIDE ALSO SEEMS TO BE KEEPING MY ARTHRITIS PROBLEMS WELL UNDER COINTROL. THIS LITTLE FITBIT HELPS ME STAY WITHIN MY DOCTOR’S SUGGESTED CARDIAC HEART BEAT RANGE WHILE RIDING. I AM VERY CAREFUL, MONITORING MY FITBIT READINGS, WHEN CLIMBING HORSETOOTH RESERVIOR HILLS HERE IN COLORADO. IN CONCLUSION, I HAVE STARTED A RIDE JOURNAL USING THE DASHBOARD DATA, MODIFIED AND ENHANCED USING PHOTOSHOP AND SNAGIT. THESE PAGES ARE EMAILED TO MY DOCTOR FOR REVIEW. ALL OK TO DATE. MY THANKS TO FITBIT FOR FACILITATING A HAPPY AND FIT OLD AGE!!!! BY THE WAY, THE CAPS LOCK IS ON BECAUSE MY EYES ARE NOT QUITE WHAT THEY USED TO BE.

  • Perhaps a person’s heart rate does not increase with age if they keep up with a continuous and rigorous training regimen.
    My heart rate, when resting and relaxed, has been in the 40 to 45 BPM range for a number of decades now, and I am 71 years old. It has not gone up at all. That said, I have been an active runner and weight trainer for all the last 39 years.

  • what is the lowest figure to expect as very low figures may also indicate alarming situation . The heart has to beat at some level to survive!

  • I have thyroid issues and if I’m getting too much my RHR will increase or if you have a fever with a sinus infection that can also cause your RHR to be raised. I was concerned about my thyroid and my doctor said it was th fever and with ear and sinus infection. A few days after treatment I was back to normal.

  • I want to share with you that when I add more vegetables to my daily diet, my RHR decreases. When I eat more carbs and less vegetables, my RHR increases.

  • Good article. I would like to see a follow up article with more detail. How many days should you exercise, I seem to do better with regular rest days, which allow recovery time.

  • Excellent advise, thank you. My fitbit has been a wonderful asset to help me to lose weight, track sleep (which isn’t the best), and push myself to meet goals.

  • I have been so sick with a variety of conditions menopause hot flashes stomach problems have no strength to exercise i walk on average 4000 steps a day resting heartrate 63 please help me

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