Photo: Andrey_Popov (Shutterstock)
The ubiquity of activity trackers means access to health data we previously never thought about, such as the number of steps we take, the hours we sleep, and our real-time heart rate. When it comes to heart rate, you might be wondering what, if anything, your resting heart rate says about your health. Resting heart rate is the frequency at which your heart beats when you are at rest, whether it’s sitting or lying down. Typically, this is measured either first thing in the morning (when you wake up but haven’t started moving around yet), or it is measured when you have been at rest for a period of time.
What is a normal resting heart rate?
The majority of people have a resting heart rate between 60 to 100 beats per minute. If you are particularly active, your resting heart rate can be lower than 60 beats per minute, which is typically a good thing.
“Within this range, lower is better, as this means your heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat,” said Erin Michos, associate director of preventive cardiology at John Hopkins University.
As Harvard Health reports, resting heart rates at the lower end of this range seem to offer some protective benefits. According to a 2010 report released by the Women’s Health Initiative, postmenopausal women with resting heart rates above 76 beats per minute were more likely to suffer heart attacks than women with resting heart rates that were 62 beats per minute or lower.
G/O Media may get a commission
Their recommendation is to speak with your doctor if you have a resting heart rate that is above 80 beats per minute.
Why would your resting heart rate change?
Your resting heart rate can go up or down depending on a number of different factors. “Stress, anxiety, hormones, medication, and how physically active you are can all impact resting heart rate,” Michos said.
If your resting heart rate increases over time, you may want to speak with your doctor. In a 2011 study that followed more than 29,000 people with no history of heart disease for ten years, an increase in resting heart rate over the course of the study was associated with a higher risk of dying from a heart attack.
When it comes to lowering your resting heart rate, the Cleveland Clinic recommends exercising regularly, managing your stress levels, avoiding caffeine and nicotine, maintaining a healthy diet, staying well-hydrated, and getting a regular amount of sleep.
Why resting heart rate estimates given by fitness trackers vary so much
Each activity tracker has its own method for estimating resting heart rate, which means that estimates will vary depending on which one you have. For example, the Oura Ring estimates your resting heart rate by reporting your average and lowest heart rate values taken while you are sleeping. If you have a FitBit, they calculate resting heart rate based on data from when you are awake and asleep.
If you end up switching from one activity tracker to another, you may see a change in your estimated resting heart rate, which is more a reflection of how this number is calculated, rather than a change in your health status.
It’s also important not to confuse heart rate variability with resting heart rate, as these are two separate things. Heart rate variability is the interval of time between each heartbeat, which can either be higher or lower depending on factors such as stress, sleep deprivation, or overtraining.