Resting Heart Rate Explored

One of the most useful biomarkers illustrating my overall health and fitness I watch on a regular basis is my resting heart rate. Since starting to run and compete in triathlon and duathlon events over seven years ago, I have closely studied and observed maximum, lactate threshold, and resting heart rates for myself and athletes I train. The one that can shift in the short-term is the resting heart rate for many reasons. Here I’ll share what I have learned and experienced about resting heart rate.

Resting Heart Rate Defined

From MedMD, resting heart rate is defined as the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. For adults, the normal range is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

A resting heart rate varies from person to person. It depends on things like:

  • Age
  • Fitness
  • Health conditions
  • Nutrition
  • Sleep
  • Medications
  • Body size
  • Even emotions, temperature, and humidity outside can affect

How Does This Work?

Our muscles work from the blood and oxygen pumped to them. When we are more fit, it takes less pumps from the heart to generate the required blood to flow to the muscles. Also, when we exercise building our aerobic capacity our heart gets larger enabling us to pump more blood per beat. In general men will have larger hearts than women equating to the capability of generating lower resting heart rates. Once we reach the age of 18, we settle in to our resting heart rate capabilities. Younger than that, they are a bit higher, especially in the early years…in general.

The Numbers

As noted earlier, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. That seems like such a wide range. We all are different and what I have learned is you have to find your range by tracking and consult with your doctor for your specific situation. Here is how resting heart rate breaks down further for the broad population via The Movement System who curated this information quite nicely based on a study of 100,000 people:

  • Women
    • Average resting heart rate = 68 beats per minute (bpm)
    • Top
      • 10% = 59 bpm
      • 5% = 56 bpm
      • 2.5% = 53 bpm
      • 1% = 51 bpm
  • Men
    • Average resting heart rate = 65 bpm
    • Top
      • 10% = 55 bpm
      • 5% = 52 bpm
      • 2.5% =49 bpm
      • 1% = 46 bpm

My experience

I remember having my resting heart rate taken when going for my annual physical and it always being high along with my blood pressure. A couple times the nurse asked if they could take it on the way out to ensure something wasn’t way off. The only thing that was way off was my health. I ate like crap, had some exercise (not consistent enough), didn’t sleep well, and didn’t handle work stress optimally.

No doubt the biggest change for me was my nutrition. All my bio markers sucked. Transitioning to a plant-based lifestyle brought all the numbers into range and not just in range but optimal. I exercise a lot and vigorously several times per week that has strengthened my heart quite immensely. When I am cruising along in my race off season and I indulge with extra treats, still plant-based, and my 7-day resting heart rate will be in the 46 bpm range.

When I get a couple months within my big race(s) of the year I get very clean with my nutrition eating as many whole plant foods as I can. I also push my body to the limit in training growing my heart capacity and capability as noted earlier. When this happens my 7-day resting heart rate usually settles at 42 bpm. In a moment of time during sleep I will often get in the low 30s and just last week I set my record with a 30 bpm resting heart rate.

With a range of 46 bpm in my off season to 42 bpm when I’m clicking, it doesn’t sound like a lot but I can physically feel that 10% difference with blood passing through my body better or worse and especially when I’m stressed or in a workout. The biggest factors for me are eating whole plant foods, exercising regularly, and sleeping appropriately. If I mess with one of those my bpm goes up. Ate like crap, didn’t exercise much, and didn’t prioritize sleep was my previous version of myself and my overall health sucked. I like this version of myself much better.

When I went back for a physical after switching to a whole plant-food lifestyle the nurse asked if I was ok as my resting heart rate was so low. I told her I never felt better. She took my measurement again and it was the greatest feeling knowing I made that happen…no drugs…just prioritizing my health…no hacks….

– Add Health to Your Life

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