There are several different factors that affect your heart rate when walking, including your age, weight, level of exertion, stamina and overall health.
Video of the Day
And what's considered a "normal" heart rate for you may not be normal for others.
Here, learn what a normal heart rate while walking slowly is, how to find your target heart rate and ways to lower your heart rate while walking around.
What Is a Normal Heart Rate When Walking Slowly?
A "normal" heart rate while walking slowly will vary greatly from person to person, depending on factors like your resting heart rate and fitness level.
A normal resting heart rate (i.e., your pulse when you're not moving much) is between 60 and 100 bpm (if you're a trained athlete, though, your resting heart rate may even be as low as 40 bpm). So if you're walking around the house, or doing housework for example, a heart rate of 110 bpm could be normal for you depending on how much you're exerting yourself.
To determine what your "normal" is, you'll need to figure out your target heart rate for light/moderate exercise (yes, house-cleaning counts as light exercise!).
Here's how to do that, per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC):
- Determine your maximum heart rate (i.e., the max number of times your heart can beat per minute). The formula is: 220 minus your age. So, if you're 40, for example, your max heart rate is about 180 bpm.
- Take 50 to 70 percent of your max heart rate to find your target heart rate range for light/moderate exercise. So if your max heart rate is 180, your target range would be somewhere between 90 and 126 bpm.
As a general guide, below are the target heart rate zones for light activity by age, according to the Mayo Clinic. (Keep in mind, these averages are not definitive. Your range may vary.)
Target Heart Rate Zones for Moderate Exercise (by Age)
100 to 170 bpm
95 to 162 bpm
93 to 157 bpm
90 to 153 bpm
88 to 149 bpm
85 to 145 bpm
83 to 140 bpm
80 to 136 bpm
78 to 132 bpm
75 to 128 bpm
It's also important to remember that walking speed is subjective. Some people may think that 1.5 mph is slow, while to others, it's a quickened pace.
According to the American Heart Association, walking at least 2.5 mph is considered brisk for the average adult, so anything under that may be considered slow, depending on the person.
What Causes an Elevated Heart Rate When Walking Slowly?
If your heart rate is over 100 bpm when you walk around, this could be normal for you.
That said, it may be helpful to know some factors that could lead to a high heart rate while walking slowly. Some of these include the following, according to the Mayo Clinic and other sources:
1. Lack of Endurance
If you haven't walked for exercise in a while (whether slowly or quickly), you may find yourself feeling a little out of breath. This is because your heart muscles haven't been worked out lately, making them weaker and resulting in a higher heart rate. This can especially happen as you age, per Penn Medicine.
As you continue to exercise regularly, though, you'll notice your heart get stronger and you'll feel out of breath less often, per the National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI).
In fact, regular participation in cardio exercise over an extended period of time can decrease your resting heart rate by increasing the heart's size, its strength to contract and the length of time it fills with blood, per UC Davis Health Sports Medicine.
2. Infection or Illness
If you have a cold or are fighting off an infection, your heart rate may be higher than usual, even when walking around.
This happens because your brain and sinus node (an area in the top chamber of your heart that serves as a pacemaker, per Mount Sinai) signal that your body is stressed due to illness, and your heart beats faster to keep up, per Harvard Health Publishing.
There's also some older research that suggests having a fever could increase your heart rate. While there isn't much current evidence, one notable September 2009 study in the Emergency Medicine Journal worth mentioning found that each 1 degree Celsius rise in body temperature can increase your heart rate by 10 bpm. This means, at 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit (or 38 degrees Celsius), your heart rate can increase 10 bpm — even at rest.
If your heart rate stays elevated during and after exercise (including walking slowly), you could have anemia, a condition where your blood produces a lower-than-normal amount of healthy red blood cells, per the NHLBI.
4. Elevated Thyroid Hormone
If you have hyperthyroidism, your thyroid gland produces excess thyroid hormone, which can cause your heart to beat harder and faster. It could even trigger abnormal heart rhythms in some people, per Harvard Health Publishing.
Other symptoms of hyperthyroidism include the following, per Penn Medicine:
- Difficulty concentrating
- Frequent bowel movements
- Goiter (visibly enlarged thyroid gland)
- Hair loss
- Increased appetite
- Sleep problems
- Weight loss (or weight gain, in some cases)
See a doctor if you think you have hyperthyroidism, which can be treated with certain medications and lifestyle changes.
5. Medication Reaction
Some medications can cause your heart rate to naturally increase as a side effect, per the Mayo Clinic. These can include stimulants like Ritalin for ADHD, certain antidepressants and some antihistamines (like the EpiPen, cough syrup or allergy medications), per the Mayo Clinic.
If your heart rate is consistently elevated while on a certain medication, your doctor may switch you to another drug that's less likely to affect your heart.
6. Too Much Caffeine
If you indulge in a cup of coffee or an energy drink before you take a walk, you could experience an elevated heart rate due to the caffeine content in these beverages, per the Mayo Clinic. Caffeine can cause your heart rate to stay elevated even while you're resting or walking slowly.
Eventually, the caffeine will wear off and you'll notice your heart begin to slow down and return to its "normal" state.
How to Accurately Measure Your Heart Rate When Walking Slowly
There are a few different methods you can use to measure your heart rate while walking slowly. They can include:
1. Checking Your Pulse on Your Wrist
If you're concerned about your heart rate when walking, it may help to get an accurate pulse reading. While there are several different places to check your pulse, the wrist is a good place to check in this scenario because it's easily accessible and checking it won't disturb your walking pace.
Follow these steps, per the National Library of Medicine:
- Put the tips of your index and middle finger on the top inside of your opposite wrist, below your thumb.
- Press firmly with just the tips of your fingers until you feel your pulse.
- Use a watch on your second hand and count your heart beats for 30 seconds.
- Multiply this number by two to get your beats per minute.
2. Checking Your Pulse on Your Neck
Another easy way to check your heart rate while walking is by checking your pulse on your neck. Here are the steps, per Harvard Health Publishing:
- Use the tips of your index and middle finger to press firmly at the side of your neck, just below your jawbone.
- Count the number of beats in 15 seconds.
- Multiply that number by four. That will give you your heart rate.
To get the most accurate reading with the above methods, it may be helpful to check your pulse a few times and use the average of all those final numbers. Sometimes you can miscalculate the first time and get a number that inaccurately reflects your current state, per Harvard Health Publishing. You can also try stopping your walk for a moment to get a good reading.
3. Using a Smartwatch or Heart Rate Monitor
Most smartwatches or fitness trackers have a feature that tracks your heart rate whether walking or at rest. You can frequently check the reading and determine whether you're in a healthy range for your body.
How to Lower Your Heart Rate While Walking Slowly
There are some things you can try at home to safely lower your resting and walking heart rate over time. These healthy habits include:
- Have a consistent exercise routine: While this may feel counterproductive at first, exercising on a consistent basis can actually help lower your walking and resting heart rate in the long-term. The more you exercise, the stronger (and more efficient) your heart becomes, which lowers your heart rate. Make sure you're getting at least 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week for a healthy heart, per the Cleveland Clinic.
- Manage stress: If you're constantly stressed, your body will produce stress hormones like adrenaline and cortisol, which can increase your heart rate, according to the American Heart Association. Try reducing stress through activities like deep breathing, meditation, yoga or even talk therapy, to help lower your heart rate in the short- and long-term.
- Avoid nicotine and avoid or limit caffeine: Both substances have been shown to increase heart rate, per Harvard Health Publishing.
- Maintain a healthy weight: The more weight your body has (than is healthy for your frame), the harder your heart has to work to pump blood, per Harvard Health Publishing. Talk to your doctor about whether losing weight is a safe option for you.
- Stay hydrated: Being dehydrated causes your blood to thicken, making it harder for your heart to push blood around, per the Cleveland Clinic. Try to stay hydrated by drinking plenty of water throughout the day, and eating water-rich foods.
- Sleep well: Poor sleep can negatively affect your heart and put you at risk for heart disease and high blood pressure, per the CDC. Aim to get at least seven hours of sleep each night.
When to See a Doctor
It's important to remember that "normal" heart rates will vary greatly from person to person. Factors like physical fitness, heart health and overall health will play a role in how fast your heart beats.
However, a resting heart rate of 110 or 120 bpm (really, anything above 100 bpm) is considered high and warrants a call to your doctor, as it could be a sign of a medical condition.
If you have a high heart rate and other concerning symptoms, such as dizziness, chest pain, shortness of breath or feeling faint, call your doctor or go to the nearest emergency room.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention: "Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate"
- Mayo Clinic Health System: "Know Your Numbers: Heart Rate"
- American Heart Association: "American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids"
- Mayo Clinic: "What's a Normal Resting Heart Rate?"
- UC Davis Health Sports Medicine: "Heart Rate"
- Mayo Clinic: "Elevated Heart Rate Most Likely Caused by Medical Condition"
- Mount Sinai: "Sick Sinus Syndrome Information"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How's Your Heart Rate and Why It Matters?"
- Johns Hopkins Medicine: "Iron-Deficiency Anemia"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Thyroid Hormone: How It Affects Your Heart"
- Mayo Clinic: "Medications and Supplements That Can Raise Your Blood Pressure"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Beta Blockers"
- Cleveland Clinic: "Tachycardia"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "Want to Check Your Heart Rate? Here's How"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How Accurate Are Wearable Heart Rate Monitors?"
- American Heart Association: "Stress and Heart Health"
- Harvard Health Publishing: "How to Lower Your Resting Heart Rate"
- CDC: "How Does Sleep Affect Your Heart Health?"
- National Library of Medicine: "How to Take Your Wrist Pulse"
- Penn Medicine: "Exercising at Any Age Can Improve Heart Health"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Physical Activity and Your Heart: Benefits"
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute: "Anemia — What Is Anemia?"
- Penn Medicine: "Hyperthyroidism (Overactive Thyroid)"
- Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation: "Pathophysiology of anaemia: focus on the heart and blood vessels"
- Emergency Medicine Journal: " The relationship between body temperature, heart rate and respiratory rate in children"
Is this an emergency? If you are experiencing serious medical symptoms, please see the National Library of Medicine’s list of signs you need emergency medical attention or call 911.