How Long After Working Out Does Your Heart Rate Return to Base?

Heart rate monitor on wrist
Heart rate monitor worn on a wrist. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

In the same way that everybody's heart rate is different, everybody's recovery is also different. Athletes will return to their base heart rate in just a few minutes, while people who haven't exercised in a long time might take two or three times longer. The faster the heart rate drops after you stop exercising, the healthier your heart is.

Heart Recovery Rate

Heart recovery rate is the speed at which your heart returns to normal after you stop exercising. According to cardiologist Dr. Michael Lauer from the Cleveland Clinic, the most important factor in heart rate reduction is what happens during the first minute after you stop exercising. Once you stop your workout, your heart rate should drop by about 20 beats during the first minute. People who have a reduction of 12 or less during that first minute are at a higher risk of suffering a heart attack later in life.

Return to Normal Heart Rate

Your normal heart rate is the heart rate speed at which your heart beats when you’re at rest. Because this number varies from person to person, you’ll need to measure your own resting heart rate before you start to exercise. Measure your heart rate again a few seconds before you stop your workout. Then keep measuring at intervals of about one minute. If your heart rate is 190 during exercise and your resting heart rate is 80, it could take you several minutes for your heart rate to return to normal. While your heart rate might drop about 20 beats during the first minute, it might slow down to a drop of 15 or so during the second and third minutes.

Factors that Affect Recovery

Your level of fitness plays an important role in how fast your heart rate returns to normal. The fitter you are, the faster your heart will recover. Age also plays a factor. Children have a faster recovery time than adults. Your actual workout also plays a role. According to a 2010 study published in the “Journal of Occupational Health,” if you work at high intensity during the whole workout, your recovery might be slower than if you take regular breaks during your exercise routine.

Ideal Recovery Speed

How long your heart rate takes to go back to its resting speed also depends on how long you exercise. If you exercise for a couple of minutes, it will take just seconds for your heart rate to slow down. If you exercise for 30 or more minutes, it will take longer. The most important factor is that the numbers keep falling minute after minute.

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