The Average Recovery Rate After Exercising

Your recovery rate after exercise is a good indicator of your overall cardiovascular health. Both your heart and muscles need a brief time to recover after the strain of exercise. Once you know how to keep track of your active heart rate, you can take note of how quickly it returns to a resting rate after exercise.

Use an activity tracker to check in on your heart rate. (Image: mastermilmar/iStock/Getty Images)

Average Recovery Rates

Depending on your physical fitness and the intensity and duration of your workout, the heart rate of an average adult drops by about 15 to 25 beats per minute. Children enjoy a shorter recovery period, as do highly fit individuals who engage in frequent, regular exercise. If you increase the length or intensity of your exercise routine, your recovery rate will also increase.

Over time, as you continue to engage in more strenuous exercise, your body will adjust and your recovery rate will approach its old value. The length of time it takes to return varies widely according to the individual and the changes in your routine, so you may notice a speedy return to normal or it may be more gradual.

Factors That Contribute to Heart Rate Recovery

Regular exercise and a balanced diet can strengthen your heart, but other lifestyle choices such as smoking may have a negative effect on your heart's ability to perform during exercise and recovery. Your weight and age also influence your heart's health.

If you're an overweight smoker who only exercises occasionally, your recovery rate will extend beyond the optimal 15 to 25 bpm drop, and you may feel winded and strained for an extended period of time. In order to ensure a more optimal recovery rate, exercise regularly and avoid the factors that have a negative impact on your heart.

Improving Your Muscle Recovery After Exercise

Your muscles also need to recover after exercise. The period immediately after exercise, when your limbs feel heavy or weak, is the time in which your skeletal muscles begin to recover. The length of this recovery period varies significantly from one person to another, but you can take steps to speed your muscle recovery period as well.

You can improve your recovery by stimulating muscle protein synthesis, ensuring proper fuel for your muscles, and maintaining blood glucose during and immediately after exercise.

Every day, ensure that your diet includes 1.4 to 2 grams of protein per killogram of your body weight. For example, if you weigh 175 pounds — about 79 killograms — you should consume between 111 and 159 grams per day. Your total protein should make up about 30 percent of your calories at every meal. Immediately after exercise, drink a protein shake or eat some lean, protein-rich meat such as turkey.

If you're exercising strenuously for more than an hour, drink carbohydrate-rich fluids such as sports drinks to quench your thirst during exercise and recovery. Otherwise, water will suffice. Your skeletal muscles depend on protein and the amino acid leucine to speed their recovery at this time. Consuming proteins immediately after exercise gives them the boost they need to recover quickly.

Your Recovery Rate as an Indicator of Mortality

In a 2000 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked heart rate recovery times and compared them with the mortality rates of test subjects. This experiment showed that the subjects who took longer to recover experienced a higher risk of death due to chronic heart disease and other age-related illnesses. Inversely, when you work to keep your recovery time low, you improve your overall health and reduce your risk of certain chronic conditions and early death.

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