Resting heart rate explained

You’re probably aware that it’s important to have a healthy heart rate. But do you know the reasons why? 


What is my resting heart rate?

Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm), while you are sitting and resting. In order to get an accurate reading, it’s important to rest at least 5 minutes before measuring your heart rate and avoid caffeine, smoking and alcohol.

Why measure my heart rate?

Your resting heart rate can help to determine heart health and identify other health issues. Having a high resting heart rate increases your risk of cardiovascular disease.

What influences my resting heart rate?

There are a number of factors that can make your resting heart rate vary, some of which include:

  • Fitness level

  • Age

  • Illness

  • Stress

  • Anxiety

  • Stimulants such as caffeine

  • Medications

  • Hydration

  • Air temperature 

What’s a good resting heart rate?

Generally, a normal resting heart rate is between 60-100bpm. Athletes and people who are very physically fit, will have a much lower heart rate, around 40-60bpm, but sometimes under 40bpm. The fitter you are, the lower your heart rate will be. This is because the body becomes more efficient at pumping blood throughout the body.

What’s high?

A resting heart rate of over 80bpm sometimes, but not always, indicates poor fitness levels. Stress and anxiety can also raise your heart rate, which might be the cause. A resting heart rate of over 100bpm, known as Tachycardia, usually indicates an illness such as fever, anaemia, dehydration and thyroid disease, but also more serious conditions such as heart disease. So if you consistently get this reading, you should see your doctor.

Can heart rate be too low?

If your resting heart rate is under 60bpm, known as Bradycardia, and you are not an athlete or don’t consider yourself very physically fit, then a more serious condition could be the cause. This situation can be dangerous because it means that not enough blood is being pumped around your body. You should see your doctor in this case also.

When was the last time you checked your heart rate? Visit a SiSU Wellness Health Station for a FREE heart rate and health check.


Written by Dr. Noel Duncan