How and Why to Monitor Your Resting Heart Rate

Now that you know a bit about your cardiovascular system, let’s get started on understand your heart by taking some baseline measurements.  Your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is the slowest heart rate for you and gives valuable information regarding your current fitness level.

Take your resting heart rate when you first wake in the morning but are still lying in bed.  Find your radial (wrist) pulse with your first and second fingers of the opposite hand and count the number of beats you feel over 60 seconds (one minute).  If you have a Heart Rate Monitor with Touch Screen, just reach over to your bedside table when you wake up, strap it to your wrist, and take an instant reading.  Do not move around much as your heart rate can instantly jump 10-20 beats just reaching across your body; lay still for a few minutes when the monitor is in place.

Resting heart rate varies from 50-90 beats per minute across the adult population. Athletes are known to have resting heart rates as low as 30-50 beats per minute.  I recommend you take your resting heart rate at least three times a week in the morning as your fitness improves, then at least once a week when you reach your goal resting heart rate and are in a health-maintenance stage.

This link has a RHR chart:  What does your RHR say about your fitness level?  For example, I am a 31 year old female, 5 ft 5" and 115 pounds.  I take 7,000-12,000 steps per day and I exercise about 5 days a week for one hour at a time.  My resting heart rate for the past month has been 45-55 beats per minute (bpm).  Readers:  What is your RHR?  Comment below!

Resting heart rate declines over time when fitness improves due to an increase in stroke volume and increase in parasympathetic innervations (Robergs, 2003).  After one month of increased endurance training (walking, running, swimming, biking more often) your resting heart rate can decrease by 5-10 beats per minute and stay lowered, showing you have improved your blood volume to supply oxygen to your healthier body, increased your heart muscle strength and capacity, and improved your nervous system.  With a regular, appropriate cardiovascular program, your resting heart rate will drop around 5-7 beats a minute each month until you reach your best health and fitness level at around 50-70 beats per minute (Horton, 2011).

Day to day changes in resting heart rate:  If your resting heart rate at any time jumps 15-25 beats during the week on a given day, it may be that you are overtired, overstressed, exposed to illness, and/or lacking recovery time.  Mine RHR usually reads 60-70 bpm on these mornings.  Aim for a gentle workout with walking, yoga, or mind-body meditation on this day and try more cardio when your resting heart rate calms down (Burke, 1998).  Combine both long term improvements (decreases) in resting heart rate and day to day changes from stress and recovery, and you’ve got great motivation to track your resting heart rate as I mentioned above.

Heart Rate Variables in this Picture:  Just to review, resting heart rate is your slowest/calmest heart rate number.  Smaller people have smaller heart sizes, less volume pumped per beat, and therefore faster heart rates.  Later we will explore how changes in posture (lying, sitting, and standing) cause instant heart rate changes as do changes in temperature (hot versus cold).  NOTE: Check with your doctor before beginning an endurance program if you take medications that affect your heart rate, blood pressure, or metabolic systems.

I wish you healthy resting hearts; more to come next week!


  1. Most ladies have a tough timing together with exercise into their busy schedules, which is why doing core workout are superb since it works out nearly all areas of the body through quick routines.

  2. Hi! Love your blog, and thank you for reading my Yoga Pants post. It would be great to be a guest on your page sometime. Give Aimee a hug for me! Kathleen Linder

  3. As you can see, it was not one week that I was posting the next HR blog as I was hired by University of New Mexico to teach some Health Ed online. But I have not forget you, my readers, and will be back to HR blogs soon! Montanna, great tip about core work, especially helpful as a base to endurance work. Kathleen, send me some post topics so we don't let too much time slip by; I'm excited to work with you!


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