FitTrend Team

In addition to our free online fitness journal, there are several free calculators to help you achieve your fitness goals. While doing some research for the Target Heart Rate (THR) Calculator, I felt it was important to explain how to properly calculate a Resting Heart Rate (RHR). But before I get into how to calculate your Resting Heart Rate, I should explain what it is and why it is important.

The Resting Heart Rate is your heart rate when you are at rest, which is lying down, awake, and not having recently exerting yourself. The typical healthy resting heart rate in adults is 60–80 beats per minute (bpm). The RHR tends to decrease as an individuals cardiovascular health improves. It is not unusual for a RHR for individuals who regularly exercise to get below 50 bpm. There have been resting heart rates in some athletes that are as low as 30 bpm.

There is also two medical conditions associated with abnormally low or high RHR. Generally speaking, Bradycardia is a condition where the heart rate is lower than 60 bpm. Tachycardia is associated with heart rates above 100 bpm. However, there are symptoms associated with these conditions in addition to an abnormal heart rate. Its recommended to seek medical advice from your doctor if you have any concerns or questions about these conditions.

This information is great, but why is Resting Heart Rate important?

Generally speaking, the lower your RHR the more fit you are. It also means your heart can pump more blood with each beat. Meaning, better fitness translates to a larger heart capacity and lower RHR. You can lower your Resting Heart Rate by engaging in regular aerobic exercise.

Everyone’s Resting Heart Rate is different. Two people who perform the same exercise routine could have different RHR. Additionally, there are several factors that can affect your resting heart rate (e.g. how rested you are, if you’ve been sick recently, ingested caffeine, dehydration, or over training).

That’s all well and good, but how do you figure out what your RHR is?

To determine your Resting Heart Rate, you will have to take your pulse. You can use the traditional two-finger method, a stethoscope and wrist watch, or a Heart Rate Monitor.

A Heart Rate Monitor may be the most accurate method since it will do all the calculating for you. However, the other two method can be accurate if done correctly.

If you take your pulse with the two finger method or stethoscope, you simply count the number of heartbeats over 1 minute. Alternatively, you can count heartbeats for 15 seconds and multiply the result by 4, or count heartbeats for 30 seconds and multiply the result by 2.

Here are some tips to help you get an accurate measurement of your Resting Heart Rate.

  • Some people insist the best way to measure your Resting Heart Rate is to take it shortly after you wake up in the morning. However you can take it at any time. You can relax for several minutes lying down or reclining in a chair prior to taking your pulse.
  • Make sure you’re well rested. If not, your RHR may be elevated.
  • Do not measure after you’ve exercised, ingested caffeine, or taken other kinds of stimulants. These factors can elevate your RHR.
  • Make sure you’re well hydrated. If not, your RHR may be elevated.
  • If you feel you’re measurement is inaccurate, no problem. You can take it again some other time.

Congratulations! You can now determine your Resting Heart Rate.

Now what?

Your Resting Heart Rate can be used to determine your Target Heart Rate (THR) which will help you determine the intensity needed during exercise. The intensity will vary depending on if you’re looking to improve your cardiovascular fitness, lose weight, or improve your anaerobic performance.

If you do not use an accurate Resting Heart Rate (RHR) to determine your Target Heart Rate (THR), then you could be under- or over-training. Additionally, it’s important to record your workouts and any fitness details to help you achieve your fitness goals.