Do you know know what your resting heart rate (RHR) is, should be, and why it’s important?
We all know that in order to burn fat and calories we need to get our heart rate up, but get it up from what?
Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats each minute when you’re resting and haven’t done anything overly physical for a while.
This morning, before I got out of bed, my resting heart rate was 47 beats per minute (bpm) – this is good news for me
- It means I’m pretty fit – 47 isn’t too shabby in the realms of resting heart rates; due to training my heart has become stronger and more efficient at pumping oxygen around my body, so it doesn’t have to work as hard
- It means all is well, so it’s game on for training today – anything between 45 and 47 beats per minute is normal and average for me
The average resting heart rate for Joe and Joanne Blogs is dependent on various things – age and gender being the main two.
The charts below will give you a general idea as to where your resting heart rate should be
Now, I say the charts will give you ‘general idea’ because your resting heart rate is also affected by many things including your fitness level, your lifestyle choices, such as smoking, your current state of health and over training.
Your Fitness Level Affects Your Resting Heart Rate
Dougal will be 63 in a couple of months time and he has a resting heart rate that rarely goes about 35bpm – if you look at the chart for men, his RHR is well below what’s considered to be athlete level.
My birthday is soon too; I’ll be 39 this year and, if you look at the RHR chart for women in my age range you’ll see that my heart rate is also well below the athlete range (I like this!).
Dougal has been physically fit and active for his entire life; surfing, swimming, being a soldier in the Army, running marathons, competing in triathlons and Iron Man competitions and training in the gym over many years have resulted in him having an incredibly strong and efficient heart – one that is much lower than that of even the 18-25 age range.
Resting Heart Rate Is Affected By Your Lifestyle Choices
If you smoke your heart rate is going to be elevated.
The carbon monoxide in cigarettes decreases the oxygen levels in your blood and so your heart has to work harder to make sure your body gets all the oxygen it needs. In addition to that, nicotene causes surges in adrenalin which also causes your heart to beat faster than normal.
Your lungs become less efficient at processing oxygen; their capacity becomes impaired causing you to be breathless which forces your heart to have to work harder still.
Caffeine elevates your heart rate.
My heart rate can increase by up anything up to 5bpm after a cup of coffee, depending on how strong it is. Elevation due to caffeine isn’t always a bad thing and is known to help improve performance during training – it was, in fact, any Olympic athlete found to have caffeine in their systems were banned until the World Anti-Doping Federation (WADA) removed it from their banned substance list in 2004.
In 2008 athletes were tested for caffeine and only banned if they were found to have above 12mg per millilitre of urine; athletes competing in the 2012 Olympics won’t be tested for caffeine at all – that said, caffeine remains on WADA’s radar and continues to be monitored for potential abuse in order to gain an advantage.
Stress, lack of sleep and alcohol
Stress, drinking alcohol and not getting enough sleep (not necessarily all at the same time!) can also cause fluctuations in your RHR.
Failure to maintain proper hydration levels also has an impact on your resting heart rate; it makes sense really, we’re mostly made up of water and if those levels drop all major functions are going to start to having to work harder or shut down.
Colds, Fever, Flu And Your Resting Heart Rate
If your normal resting heart rate is higher than usual this can be a sign that you’re not well – your heart rate will increase by 10 to 15 beats for every degree that your temperature goes up. If you don’t feel well and your RHR is 10bpm above normal, DO NOT TRAIN!
If your immune system is busy fighting of germs, bugs and viruses, it simply cannot cope with the additional demands of intense training too.
Whilst it can be frustrating having to put your training programme on hold to recover, it’s far better to take a week off then push through, when you shouldn’t, making things worse and taking yourself out of the game for three weeks or more.
More is rarely ‘more’ and this is also true in the world of physical training.
Yes it’s tempting and, yes, most of us have done it: if I just throw in an extra weight session per day, plus a 5k run, then I’ll get the results I want a lot quicker! But too much more is nothing but a fast route to overtraining and all that comes with it:
- Lack of results
- Hitting a plateau
- Decrease in motivation
- Lack of strength and energy to complete your workouts
- Seem to be catching colds more frequently
- Change in sleeping patterns
- You ache more often than you don’t – in fact, you don’t remember what it’s like not to ache somewhere!
You can only keep annihilating your body for so long before it refuses to take any more, and an RHR above your average is a tell-tale sign that you’re pushing yourself a little too hard.
What Should My Resting Heart Rate Be?
Well, it depends on all of the above!
The numbers in the charts can guide you to a certain extent,but your number will be personal to you. Don’t compare your RHR to mine, or anyone else’s; simply compare it with your own on a regular basis and build a picture of what is normal for you.
When you have a good idea of your average RHR you’ll know what’s normal for you and what’s not – you’ll be able to monitor improvement in your cardiovascular fitness, spot when you should back off and when you don’t have any business training at all!