Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. It’s a good indication of your sleep quality, recovery, and overall health.

What can you learn by monitoring your own RHR? Can keeping tabs on your heart rate really help you manage your health and wellness better?

Resting Heart Rate is Unique for Everybody

Average RHR for adults can range anywhere from 40 to 100 beats per minute (BPM). Women tend to have a higher RHR than men, while elite athletes tend to be at the bottom of the BPM range. The best way to find your average is by using a wearable device that measures your RHR in a similar setting over a few weeks.

When comparing your daily RHR to your average, keep the following in mind:

  • Low RHR is often associated with good fitness and overall health.
  • High RHR is often associated with stress (both good and bad).
  • Abnormally high RHR compared to your baseline can be an early warning sign that something is challenging your body. Consider taking it easy if you notice a spike in your RHR.

Resting Heart Rate is a Sensitive Metric

RHR is linked to your autonomic nervous system. Small changes in RHR can signal a significant shift in how your body is reacting to stressors.

To see any changes, it’s better to track your RHR over a longer period of time instead of taking an individual snapshot. Ideally, RHR is measured at night when your body is in a consistent state.

Helpful metrics to track are:

  • your lowest RHR during the night (a number)
  • your changes in RHR during the night (a graph)

Your lowest nightly RHR is a good baseline metric of your health and well-being. Lower RHR can indicate better cardiovascular health and recovery. If you track how your resting heart rate changes throughout the night, you may better understand how your body and mind recover from daily strain.

Factors That Affect Your Resting Heart Rate

Your RHR is affected by various factors, some of which are easier to control than others:

Factors You Can Control

  • pre-bedtime routine
  • nutrition, alcohol consumption, caffeine, medication, and hydration
  • physical fitness and activity

Factors You Can’t Control

  • illness
  • demographics (age, gender)
  • hormone cycles
  • emotion and stress

It is normal to see changes to your RHR patterns during training, stress, or hormone cycles.

  • Training: It’s normal for your nighttime RHR to be higher than usual when recovering from a day involving intense exercise. As you increase your training volume and improve your fitness, your RHR should start to decline over time.
  • Stress: Higher-than-average RHR can be a sign that you are chronically stressed or under the weather.
    Hormone: For women, your RHR may rise during the second half of your monthly cycle.
  • Caffeine: Consuming caffeine can elevate your RHR.
    Keep tabs on your recovery and enhance your performance by monitoring your RHR. Build a long-term view of your health and well-being so you’re ready to make lifestyle adjustments when they matter most.