The more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate will be. Most people have a resting heart rate that falls between 60 and 90 beats per minute, according to Dr. Howard LeWine, Chief Medical Editor for Harvard Health Publications. (Ref 1) Your heart rate tends to rise as you get older, and genetics also play a role. A low resting heart rate may lower your risk of death, particularly from heart disease. A study published in "The Journal of the American Medical Association" in 2011 found that study participants whose resting heart rates rose from under 70 to over 70 during a 10-year period were 90 percent more likely to have died during that period. (Refs 1 and 2)
Lowering your resting pulse rate is possible with a healthy exercise routine and lifestyle changes. Engage in at least 150 minutes per week of moderate exercise or 75 minutes of vigorous exercise per week to meet the American Heart Association's recommendations. (Ref 3) Regular exercise can help you lose weight if you need to and keeps your heart healthy, both of which can help lower your resting pulse rate.
Hold your index and middle fingers over the pulse on the inside of your wrist on the opposite arm. Count how many times your heart beats in 10 seconds and multiply the result by six to determine your resting heart rate (RHR).
Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. As an alternative method of calculating maximum heart rate, females can multiply their ages by 0.88 and subtract the resulting number from 206 to find their maximum heart rates.
Subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate to find your heart rate reserve, or HRR.
Multiply your HRR by 0.50 and add your RHR to find the low end of your heart rate training range. Multiply your HRR by 0.85 and add your RHR to find the high end of your target range.
Warm up for five to 10 minutes by walking, marching in place or engaging in some other light activity to reduce your risk of injury.
Increase the intensity of your exercise until you reach at least 50 percent of your maximum heart rate -- the low end of your target range. Check your pulse rate as you exercise manually on your wrist or carotid artery. (Ref 3)
Continue working out in your target heart rate range for 20 to 50 minutes, or as long as you feel comfortable. You can increase your amount of weekly exercise as your fitness level improves. The more you exercise, the greater the benefits.
Decrease the intensity level of your exercise as you near the end of your workout to allow your heart rate and breathing to gradually return to normal. Stretch lightly for about five minutes to cool down.
Vary your methods of exercise to engage different muscles and prevent boredom. Walking, cycling slower than 10 mph and water aerobics qualify as moderate intensity exercises. For vigorous activities try running, cycling faster than 10 mph or swimming laps, suggests the Department of Health and Human Services in the 2008 Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans.
Quit smoking or using tobacco products. Smokers have higher resting heart rates than non-smokers do, explains Dr. LeWine.
Reduce the stress in your life as much as possible, since highly stressed individuals tend to have higher resting heart rates. Practice deep breathing exercises, meditate or participate in calming exercises, such as yoga or tai chi to help keep your stress levels low.
Include two to three sessions of strength-training exercises weekly to increase your overall physical fitness.
Always talk to your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. Stop exercising and seek medical attention if you experience chest pain, severe shortness of breath or fainting during or after exercise, as these can be warning signs of a heart problem, cautions the University of Maryland Medical Center.
- Harvard Health Publications: Increase in Resting Heart Rate Is a Signal Worth Watching
- The Journal of the American Medical Association: Temporal Changes in Resting Heart Rate and Deaths From Ischemic Heart Disease
- University of Maryland Medical Center: Exercise
- American Heart Association: Target Heart Rates
- USA Today: Target Heart Rate Formula Made Especially for Women
- Georgia State University: How To Exercise
- U.S. Department of Health & Human Services: Physical Activity Guidelines for Americans