What is a Good Resting Heart Rate?


This is a very common question among cyclists. I have heard several people discuss this topic and have often seen them compare registrations of early morning resting heart rates. The fact is that you can only compare these values with your own previous registrations. The reason for this is that we all have a different anatomy of our cardiovascular system. But these systems are all based on the same physiological mechanisms. Thus, we can learn from each others’ physiological experiences and adaptations, but we can’t compare individual heart rate values. E.g. your resting heart rate is 58bpm while your friend’s heart rate is 42bpm, still I can’t say which one of you are in the best shape nor have the highest VO2 max.

Autonomic nervous system regulates resting heart rate

The resting heart rate is closely related to the autonomic nervous system. You will probably already have noticed that your resting heart is lower when you are in good shape. This is because of a larger stroke volume or more correctly a bigger parasympathic drive on the sinus node. This is one of the central adaptations to endurance training.

Know your resting heart rate

A good reason to know your normal level of resting heart rate is that you can use it to discover overtraining or illness. If your resting heart rate is 10-15 beats above normal, you might have a disease. In that case I will recommend you take your temperature and look for other symptoms. Avoid intensive training or races if you don´t feel well.

Some values to compare with (don’t do it…)
There are great deviations in normal resting heart rates. Many well trained cyclists normally have a resting heart rate in the 40’s, some in the high 30’s and few in the low 30’s or lower. There are also well trained cyclists or even professionals in the high 40’s or low 50’s. And as I said previously: Don’t compare values with others’…

22 comments… add one

  • Scott

    My resting heart rate right now is about 72 beats per minute (sometimes 66 or 78 or 72 or 70). I just bought a ellipitcal machine and I want to work on lowering my cardio heart rate down as I want to train harder. I have missed a lot of gym time lately as I am 39 years old but I feel 21. I train time to time, no excuses, it is really my lack of effort, my gym is 3 blocks away and it a private 24hour power lifting gym. I bought the ellipital machine because I always sweat too much, this way I can run 20, 30 minutes or maybe an hour and shower when I’m done. Also I can combine sit ups during my cardio, 20 minutes of cardio, then do 50 to sit ups, then run 5 to 10 minutes cardio and then do another 50 situps and then I’m done.

    I am about 170 in weight and losing but I have lots of tone (it’s easy for me to gain muscle, I joiced 10 years ago and never needed it, just wanted to see the size from steroids but never really completed the cycle, so I ended it early). I keep my heart rate no higher then 160 beats per minute when I run on the ellipitcal but I am out of shape or sort of but high energy. I train hard, I love to train but not lately, so I am doing the cardio 4 days a week and love it (things will get better in the next cuple of months as I continue to train on the ellipitcal machine). I feel great but my goal is to bring down my resting heart rate to 60 beat per minute even though 72 is fine. I don’t drink much (some beer but not much) or nor do I smoke and I don’t drink coffee (maybe once a week) but I drink tea with honey daily. I don’t eat any transfats nor do I eat anything with high fructose corn syrup or corn syrup in it, I learned that is just bad for ya and read all my labels when I shop.

    Anyway, I appreciate this new post. This is a good topic.

  • Timothy

    Gee thanks for your life history Scott. You got nothing better to do?

  • Scott

    I train, got the heart rate down. That’s a good thing isn’t?

  • Scott

    I train, got the heart rate down. That’s a good thing isn’t it?

  • Ryan

    I have consistently had good RHR around the 50s through teens and early twenties, now 30 years old and after 6 month regime of interval training and soccer I’m down to an average 42bpm

  • nehemiah wilson

    Hello, I run on average 10-15 miles a day. Today, I ran 9 miles in 1:05:00 which is a pace of 7:11/mile. I recently bought a garman forerunner, which by the way is the most amazing device ever created for runners, and I kept my heart rate monitor on. Even after about an hour of idle time (occasional walking and lite movement) my heart rate was around the low 70s bpm. I don’t understand this at all. I am suppose to have a low rate right? I have now completed three marathons and one I did without even training. Should I change my diet or something? Lower my cholesterol? Oatmeal? I drink coffee…could coffee cause this? I don’t want to get a heart attack! Could someone please help.

  • eric ech

    nehemiah,

    I wish I had your conditioning. Coffee is certainly a culprit. Have you monitored your BP? My best suggestion is for you to visit a reputable cardiologist and see him/her as your primary care doc. There no better a source! Good luck…

  • B

    “This is because of a larger stroke volume or more correctly a bigger parasympathic drive on the sinus node”

    More correctly? BOTH are adaptations (different) and BOTH are correctly hahaha

  • I’m 47 yrs old and just got back for my cycling training for a month now. Cycling 6 days a week, 5 days of this is 20 miles at 20 ml per hour constantly in flatand 1 day is 30 miles with killer hills. It’s just come to my attention that my resting heart is 80-90 after an hour rest.Is this means bad? or do I need to see my doctor? I don’t feel bad at all..my normal resting hearth rate is 70′s and my highest is 150′s

    Thank you

  • BlackBean

    I can’t believe what I’m reading here. People are trianing and healthy feeling great, but are afraid of heart attacks because of what they see on a HR monitor?? Lighten up guys. HR is not the be all and end all of fitness and health. All you guys will most likely die quickly from unncessary stress though, so be VERY afraid.

  • Abi

    Wow, this is an old post. Still, @Nehemiah- that is not your true resting heart rate. That is your recovery heart rate. Of course your heart rate will be elevated post run and while walking around and doing things. A resting heart rate is generally taken in the morning before getting out of bed.

  • biker

    After workout your heart stays elevated for several hours, which from my understanding is that you’re metabolism is still high and continuing to burn calories ……so it’s a good thing. The time to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning when you wake up (preferably while still laying down).

  • Gene

    I use my hrm to determine. Wear it over night and look at the min HR for the night. That would be pretty accurate. You want to get your lowest resting heart rate. That’s why people say check it in the morning. They hope it is the lowest at that point. Mine never is. The stress of work or just having to pee increases it.

  • Peter Rogers

    A lot of people don’t actually know how to measure the RHR so comparisons are pointless, you have to measure first thing in the morning, wake up but don’t get out of bed, wake up for 5-15mins then check HR for 60 secs, do this each day for approx 5 days and take the average!
    If you are super fit, like some on here obviously are then your RHR may be high due to overtraining or illness!
    My RHR is around 49 and i cycle around 100-180 miles a week depending on time of year, so 100 in winter to 180 in summer.

  • terry

    Not sure why some of you are worried about your RHR. Within reason, your RHR doesn’t matter other than serving as a starting reference point to see how much your heart rate increases with exertion.

    Someone having a RHR of 50 is no indication of heart health — in and of itself. Neither is it with someone who has a RHR of 75. Some of you guys are worrying over nothing.

  • Mike

    Terry (3/17/2011) is IMHO is correct, but I would add that checking your RHR is important in so much as if you notice it climbing it could indicate a couple of scenarios including the beginning of an illness (cold) and/or OVERTRAINING! Yes overtraining is something that needs to be avoided – it leads to injuries and decreased physical fitness or negative gains. I check my RHR about once every month or two during the winter when I know I am not at risk of over training and about 2x per month during spring/summer when I try to fit in much more training with swim/bike/runs and when my allergies have kicked into full steam. — just my 2 cents, and I will get change back :)

  • B

    Mine is consistently in the 50′s and my blood pressure is low as well. I think this has to do somewhat with fluid intake and vitamins. When I drink lots of water, I get higher numbers. But still in the 50′s and low healthy blood pressure readings. I am naturally a conditioned athletic type I think, my dad is like this.

  • Mike L.

    The lowest my RHR ever was, was about 65… and to me, I didn’t like it. I decided to pick up smoking full flavor Marlboro’s and that brought it back to the mid 70′s where I feel much more comfortable.

  • terra

    I took care of an obese man with a resting heart rate of 40. He does not exercise. Does this mean he is more healthy than everyone in this blog who is worried about their resting HR in the 70′s and 80′s? NOOOO…. it means his SA node is not functioning properly and he needs a pacemaker!! A resting heart rate is rarely even looked at when considering cardiac health. Your cholesterol (total, HDL and LDL), blood pressure, exercise regimen, diet etc. are much better indicators :)

  • BLP

    Resting heart rate can vary considerably due to many variables, some outlined in the article. Some others are off-season vs during race season, diet, hydration, stress both emotional and physical among everything from climate and weather to what’s going on in your head.

    One thing to be aware of is that low RHR is part of Athletic Heart Syndrome. Low RHR is symptomatic of AHS and this, and other factors, can be minterpreted by a cardilogist as dangerous (low RHR = Bradycardia = bad) unless they understand you are an athlete in training. Many other cardio/blood tests may trigger red flags for the general population, but are ‘normal’ for AHS.

    Be careful when describing your cardio experiences to a doctor.

    Use your personal RHR, measured when you awaken in the morning, as a guide to YOUR general health and training stress as it does fluctuate.

  • john chales

    I am 51 years old and my only exersise is a few rounds of golf every week ! Im pretty crap at golf but my RHB is 48 whoo hooo !!! Must be down to my wifes cooking.

  • kk blok

    My hr iz 72 apon wakeing, no exercising at all ,after 30-40 min recheck and was 68 iz this bad ?12

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