Unless you’re an athlete or regularly visit the doctor for monitoring of a heart condition, you probably haven’t thought much about your heart rate. But, like your blood pressure and other vital bodily functions, your resting heart rate can tell you a lot about your health and your lifestyle — along with potential changes you might need to make to get healthier. Learn what a normal heart rate range for all age groups is, what can affect it and how to use it to live a healthier life.
What Is a Normal Resting Heart Rate?
First, it’s essential to keep in mind that every person’s body is different. Your heart rate may be a bit slower or faster than your friend’s, sibling’s or spouse’s heart rate, but that doesn’t necessarily indicate either of you is in poor health. That’s why there’s a resting heart rate range; there are many acceptable numbers healthy people can have. If you’re over the age of 10 years old, your heart rate should fall between 60 and 100 beats per minute. There are exceptions for athletes because their resting heart rates can be slower. In general, when resting, a lower heart rate is associated with a more efficient heart and better fitness.
What Else Can Affect Your Resting Heart Rate?
Age and exercise aren’t the only factors that determine what your resting heart rate is. Both lifestyle and environmental factors can play a role. For example, if it’s hot and humid outside, your heart rate may be a little higher, up to about 10 more beats per minute. If you’re standing up instead of sitting or lying down, it may also be slightly higher. Even your emotions can play a role. People who are stressed, anxious, sad, excited or angry may see temporary changes in their heart rates. Other factors that can impact your resting heart rate are body size, tobacco use, activity levels, medications you’re taking and any chronic diseases you have.
How Can You Find Out What Your Heart Rate Is?
If you want to find out your resting heart rate, you don’t have to go to the doctor or use any fancy equipment. Sit in the same spot for several minutes before measuring your resting heart rate. Start by finding your pulse somewhere on your body. The insides of your wrists, the insides of your elbows, the side of your neck and the top of your foot are the most accessible places to find it.
Once you find the right spot, you can feel your heart beating through your skin in these places. Place your first two fingers (not your thumb) on top of it. Use a watch or timer to count how many beats it makes during 60 seconds. This is your resting heart rate. The first thing in the morning, before getting out of bed, is the best time to take your pulse.
What Is a Target Heart Rate?
In addition to your resting heart rate, you may want to know what your target heart rate is. When you perform aerobic exercises, your heart rate increases. If you exercise while your heart is in its target heart rate range, you and your heart will gain the most benefits from the workout.
To find your target heart rate, first subtract your current age from 220. This number is considered your maximum heart rate or the highest your heart rate should go while exercising. Your target heart rate is usually around 80% of your maximum heart rate. If you haven’t exercised in a while or you have certain medical conditions, you may not want to aim for your target heart rate right away when starting a new plan. Your doctor can help you determine the right heart rate for you if you decide to start exercising.
When Should You Be Concerned About Your Heart Rate?
One way to keep an eye on your health at home is to take your heart rate daily. For the most part it’ll stay the same, but a sudden increase or decrease could be a sign of an underlying issue. If you find that your pulse does climb over 100 while resting, it’s good to see your doctor. If your doctor determines your elevated resting heart rate isn’t due to a heart condition, medication or other condition, there may be some ways to lower it:
- Exercise is the most significant lifestyle change you can make. Swimming, jogging, biking, dancing and doing other similar aerobic activities strengthens your heart muscle and can lower your pulse over time.
- Cutting back on tobacco and alcohol, reducing the amount of stress in your life, and losing weight if you’re overweight or obese are other ways you can lower your heart rate.