Your heart rate should be high when you exercise, but it shouldn't stay high after you stop. Your heart rate should begin returning to normal immediately after exercise, but it can take hours to fully recover. Check your heart rate recovery and your resting heart rate to assess your health.
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Heart Rate Recovery
When you stop exercising, your heart rate should begin to decrease and gradually return to normal. The rate at which your heart rate decreases is known as your heart rate recovery. Measure this by checking your heart rate during exercise and again one minute after you stop exercising. Your heart rate recovery is the difference between the two rates. For example, if your heart rate is 180 beats per minute and it reduces to 160 beats per minute after exercise, you have a heart rate recovery of 20 beats per minute.
A typical decrease in heart rate is in the range of 15 to 20 beats per minute. A heart rate that decreases quicker than that is a sign of good cardiovascular health. A heart rate that drops by fewer than 12 beats per minute, however, is a sign of poor health. Your heart rate recovery should gradually increase over weeks and months with regular cardiovascular exercise. A heart rate recovery that decreases with training can be a symptom of overtraining.
Resting Heart Rate
After extended exercise, it may take hours for your heart rate to return to normal. In the case of intense aerobic exercise it can take as long as 24 hours to fully recover. Your resting heart rate is a useful measure to tell if your heart rate is returning to normal. Your resting heart rate is your heart rate taken at rest, ideally just after you awake in the morning. Check your resting heart rate regularly. An increase may indicate poor recovery.
If you're new to exercise, consult a physician before you start a workout program. If your heart rate recovery is fewer than 12 beats per minute, talk to your doctor to see if you have an underlying health problem. Also see your doctor if your resting heart rate continues to increase day to day even if you decrease your training. If you have frequent episodes of unexplained fast heart rates -- particularly if they are accompanied by dizziness -- tell your doctor, who can determine if this is a cause for concern.