Low Resting Heart Rate – Does it matter?

Resting heart rate is not always equal to performance

Monitoring your resting heart rate is a good discipline to integrate in your daily procedures since it can give you some important information about your fitness. When you have registered your resting heart rate in the morning for a period of time (months) you will start to see a pattern.

There are days with low resting heart rates and there are days with high values.

Notice long term changes in resting heart rate

The most important observation for you will be that there is some but not a total correlation between resting heart rate and cycling performance.

Small differences in the same week has nothing to do with improved performance but is a lot more a question about level of recovery, sleep pattern, physical and psychological stress level etc. Differences observed over a longer period (months) might very likely be seen because of a central adaptation. Due to a better relaxation (regulated by autonomic nerve system) there is a better filling of the heart in the diastole and thus a larger stroke volume in the systole.

Don’t compare heart rate values…
As I have mentioned a couple of times before: It doesn’t make sense to compare absolute heart rate values with others because we all have a different anatomy. As an example, I have registered a low resting heart rate of 36bpm in a period with a very small amount of cardiovascular training.

I wonder how many of you hard training individuals who have the same value? That doesn’t matter! You are probably stronger than I was at that time anyway…

As you can see from the many comments (currently more than 136 comments) to my article ‘What is Your Lowest Heart Rate ever?‘ there are many people around in the world with low resting heart rates. Many of the comments illustrate that resting heart rate in it self is a good but not really good predictor of performance.

8 comments… add one
  • Geoff

    You have to be very careful in correlating heart rate with fitness or longtivity, many of you are assuming that becuase you have a very low resting heart rate then you are either super fit or will live much longer than Mr or Mrs Average. That may be true but I have trained and ran with the world’s best athletes and it is true that many of the elite athletes have low resting heart rates but there are also a large majoroty that do not. Also, being underweight is generally considered to be a positive asset but you can be underweight and be extremely unfit.

  • my heart rate runs from 45 to 55 i am 87 have had a heart attack wow high should i let my heart rate go when i am just sitting around

  • Lee Curtis (UK)

    FYI: My resting pulse rate is now 28.
    I am 66 and swim 1K in the fast lane (sub 21 min) 5 times a week.
    2 years ago my RPR was mid 30, and I could get 116 at the end of my final sprint.
    Now it is 28 (taken on an ECG at the cardiac clinic), and I can only get 90 after the sprint.
    Also have a 4 sec gap between beats in the middle of the night.
    Have no dizziness etc or any ill effects at all, but Cardiac Clinic considers this is too low and am now to be fitted with a pacemaker in a couple of weeks.
    (Does this qualify me for membership of the Zombie Club?? 🙂 ).

  • Les

    My resting heart rate ranges from 45 to 53 and I take a cycle spinning class three times a week. Pretty high intensed. Should I be worried about it dipping to 45bpm? I will be 67 in December. I don’t have any dizziness or faintness.

  • waldo

    what’s the point of fitness if you gonna end up with a 38bpm resting heart rate that creates factors for blood clots (slower moving blood) and missed heart beats.
    medically on an ecg this is recognised as severe bradycardia, as anything below 40 and down to 25 bpm is cause for alarm and you should go to emergency.

    pacemakers operate from 75-120 for a good reasons because your heart functions better at these average rates.
    Am i wrong?
    Cardio fitness for hours every day is a waste of time and actually does you more harm i think.

  • Lee Curtis

    Have now had my pacemaker for over a year. It is set to min.55bpm and the clever little computer varies it with demand. Still swim my 1K daily although I now average 21-22 min (well I am 67 now!). Post sprint my bpm varies from 120 down to mid 90s; feel much better when it is higher. Intend to mention this at the Clinic when I have my checkup next month.

  • Erwin Witt

    A lot of this stuff about resting heart rate is nonsense. The important factor is how you feel while training. I do mountain runs at about 18 METS for 2 to 3 hours 4 or 5 times a week and feel great. A year ago, the cardiologist said I needed a pacemaker so I agree, I was having dizzy spells and fainting. After pacemaker implant I still fainted and had dizzy spells because I had been taking Hytrin for prostate enlargement. The cardiologist set my resting heart rate to 50 bpm, I discontinued Hytrin, and now am never dizzy and never faint. I can regularly do 1000 or more floors at 160 steps per minute on the Precor 761A stepper. I am 67 years old and when the battery for this pacemaker expires, I am not going to get a new one. I have only sinus bradycardia and 1st degree AV block. My pacemaker is more or less useless with this diagnosis due to vagal tone.

  • The Truth

    You don’t actually want a low resting heart rate. Athletes with low resting heart rates when younger require pacemakers when they get older at much higher rates than the general population.

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