Although most people who wear a heart rate monitor focus on their heart rate during physical activity, it can also be beneficial to monitor your resting heart rate.
But what’s a good resting heart rate? What are the normal resting heart rates by age and sex?
In this guide, we will discuss the significance of your resting heart rate, factors that affect your resting heart rate, and the normal resting heart rate by age and sex.
We will cover:
- What Is Resting Heart Rate?
- Why Does Resting Heart Rate Matter?
- What’s A Good Resting Heart Rate? Average Resting HR By Age and Sex
Let’s get started!
What Is Resting Heart Rate?
As the term describes, resting heart rate refers to the rate at which your heart beats at rest, measured in the number of times your heart beats in a minute.
Your resting heart rate should be the lowest heart rate that you experience in a day, as any type of physical activity or movement will increase the muscles’ need for oxygen.
Oxygen is used to produce cellular energy (ATP), which is required for your muscles to contract and do any kind of work necessary to move your body.
The increased demand for oxygen is met by increasing circulation to your muscles and other tissues. Blood carries oxygen, so the more blood flow that your tissues and organs receive, the more oxygen available to perfuse these tissues.
The heart is the muscular pump that governs the circulation of blood in the body.
Therefore, it is the role of the heart to keep up with the oxygen and nutrients demands from all of the cells, tissues, and organs around the body based on what you are doing and what they need.
Cardiac output refers to the amount of blood that is pumped throughout the body by the heart per minute. It is the product of your heart rate (the number of times your heart beats in a minute) and the stroke volume (the amount of blood pumped out of the heart with each contraction).
As your activity level increases and the need for oxygen increases, cardiac output increases.
This is accomplished primarily by increasing your heart rate, though as you start to exercise, stroke volume will also increase.
Because the need for oxygen is less at rest, your heart does not need to pump as much blood, so your heart rate is lower than when you are up and about.
According to the American Heart Association, the normal resting heart rate for adults is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute, although it tends to be lower in fit individuals and trained athletes due to physiological adaptations from consistent training.
Average resting heart rate also decreases with age, being highest in infancy and then childhood and then decreasing continuously throughout the adult lifespan.
Why Does Resting Heart Rate Matter?
So, why does resting heart rate matter? What are the benefits of measuring your resting heart rate?
Generally speaking, having a lower resting heart rate is associated with improved health and function.
Research suggests that a higher resting heart rate is associated with an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular events and all-cause mortality.
The reason that a lower resting heart rate is usually better than a higher resting heart rate is that it is indicative of better cardiovascular efficiency.
Remember, the heart has to meet the oxygen needs of all of the different cells, tissues, and organs in the body.
This oxygen is delivered through the blood via the circulatory system.
Returning to the concept of cardiac output, the heart has to pump a certain amount of blood throughout the body depending on the needs of your tissues, and this is accomplished by beating a certain number of times per minute and ejecting a certain amount of blood out of the ventricles of the heart with each beat.
If your heart muscle is stronger and more powerful, it can pump a greater volume of blood with each beat, reducing the requisite number of beats per minute to satisfy the cells’ need for oxygen.
The fitter you are, the more efficient your heart gets at having these stronger contractions, which means that your stroke volume increases.
As a result, your heart rate can decrease at the same levels of activity that previously required a higher heartbeat.
There are other additional favorable cardiovascular adaptations that occur from consistent aerobic exercise, including:
- Increase in blood plasma volume (which means you have more blood for a higher stroke volume)
- Greater elasticity of your blood vessels to handle more blood volume without increasing blood pressure
- Larger chamber size, enabling more blood to be pumped without increasing the ejection fraction (the percentage of blood ejected out of the chambers of the heart with each beat)
Additionally, with aerobic training and improved cardiovascular health, your muscles become more efficient at extracting oxygen from the blood and using it to generate the energy they need for your physical activity.
Your body essentially becomes more economical with oxygen, reducing the demand, and subsequently reducing the necessary cardiac output.
All of these adaptations together decrease your resting heart rate (as well as your heart rate during submaximal exercise) and are demonstrative of better cardiovascular health and performance.
For these reasons, a lower resting heart rate is indicative of the fact that your heart is not having to work as hard to meet the needs of your body. The less stress and strain on your heart, the lower the risk of adverse cardiovascular events.
If you habitually track your average resting heart rate, you should notice that it trends downward as you get in better shape through consistent exercise training.
With that said, another benefit of measuring your resting heart rate is that daily fluctuations can give you insight into certain parameters in your life.
There are lots of factors that can affect your average resting heart rate, as well as day-to-day resting heart rate, and one of the main factors influential in the latter is your stress level.
Whether considering physical stress from high-intensity or long-duration exercise, or other forms of psychosocial stress, if you notice an uptick in your normal average resting heart rate, it is indicative that your body is not fully recovered and your heart is having to work harder to meet their oxygen needs in your body.
Your resting heart rate can also increase if you are getting sick or fighting off an illness, as this is yet another form of stress for the body.
What’s A Good Resting Heart Rate? Average Resting HR By Age and Sex
According to data provided by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), here are the average resting heart rate ranges by age and sex:
Average Resting Heart Rate By Age for Men
|Age 18-25||49-55 bpm||56-61 bpm||61-65 bpm||70-73 bpm||Over 82 bpm|
|Age 26-35||49-54 bpm||55-61 bpm||62-65 bpm||71-74 bpm||Over 82 bpm|
|Age 36-45||50-56 bpm||57-62 bpm||63-66 bpm||71-75 bpm||Over 83 bpm|
|Age 46-55||50-57 bpm||58-63 bpm||64-67 bpm||72-7 bpm||Over 84 bpm|
|Age 56-65||51-56 bpm||57-61 bpm||62-67 bpm||72-75 bpm||Over 82 bpm|
|Over Age 65||50-55 bpm||56-61 bpm||62-65 bpm||70-73 bpm||Over 80 bpm|
Average Resting Heart Rate By Age for Women
|Age 18-25||54-60 bpm||61-65 bpm||66-69 bpm||74-78 bpm||Over 85 bpm|
|Age 26-35||54-59 bpm||60-64 bpm||65-68 bpm||73-76 bpm||Over 83 bpm|
|Age 36-45||54-59 bpm||60-64 bpm||65-69 bpm||74-78 bpm||Over 85 bpm|
|Age 46-55||54-60 bpm||61-65 bpm||66-69 bpm||74-77 bpm||Over 84 bpm|
|Age 56-65||54-59 bpm||60-64 bpm||65-68 bpm||74-77 bpm||Over 84 bpm|
|Over Age 65||54-59 bpm||60-64 bpm||65-68 bpm||73-76 bpm||Over 84 bpm|
Again, pulling from the data from the CDC, these are the normal ranges and average resting heart rates for newborns, toddlers, and children.
|Age||Normal Range for Resting Heart Rate|
|Newborn to 1 month||70-190 bpm|
|1 to 11 months||80-160 bpm (average 128 bpm for boys, 130 bpm for girls)|
|Age 1-2||80-130 bpm (average 116 bpm for boys, 119 bpm for girls)|
|Age 3-4||80-120 bpm (average 100 bpm for boys, 99 bpm for girls)|
|Age 5-6||75-114 bpm (average 96 bpm for boys, 94 bpm for girls)|
|Age 7-9||70-110 bpm (average 87 bpm for boys, 86 bpm for girls)|
|Age 10-15||60-100 bpm (average 78 bpm for boys, 83 bpm for girls)|
Your average resting heart rate can give you an indication of your fitness level, and if you track changes in your average resting heart rate over time, you can get a window into how your body is responding to stress, such as exercise and general life stress, and whether you are overtraining or successfully improving your aerobic fitness.
If you notice your heart rate while exercising is unusually high, read our article Why Is My Heart Rate High On Easy Runs for some possible causes.