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Your resting heart rate is a key sign of fitness and longevity. Improve it with 2 types of workouts.

Gabby Landsverk   

Your resting heart rate is a key sign of fitness and longevity. Improve it with 2 types of workouts.
  • Resting heart rate can be a good sign of overall fitness, heart health, and longevity.
  • A lower resting heart rate indicates your heart is stronger and more efficient.

Stop what you're doing — how's your heart?

A strong, healthy heart isn't just about keeping up during exercise. Measuring how well your heart works at rest is just as important for unlocking a longer life and better fitness.

Your resting heart rate (how many times your heart beats per minute while you're calm and sitting or lying down) can be a helpful sign of overall health and fitness, according to Dr. Edo Paz, a cardiologist at White Plains Hospital and senior vice president of medical affairs at the digital health company Hello Heart.

"Your resting heart rate tells you so much about your cardiovascular fitness," he told Business Insider. Unlike other measures of heart health like VO2 max, you don't need to go into a lab to track it accurately.

If you're a tech millionaire or a biohacking enthusiast, you're keeping tabs on this stat. It's something the Bryan Johnsons of this world tout as proof that they're winning the race against aging. The rest of us are getting increasingly acquainted with our resting heart rates, too, with the rise of smartwatches and other fitness wearables that measure your cardiovascular health.

It's not a bad thing. Knowing your resting heart rate and how it changes over time can help you keep tabs on your overall health and make the most of your workouts for a longer, healthier life.

Why should you care about resting heart rate?

When it comes to resting heart rate, a lower number is better for health and fitness, said Mike Thomson, personal trainer and run coach at Life Time Overland Park

"We want to have a low resting heart rate, indicating a higher level of cardiovascular fitness. This indicates that the heart doesn't have to do as much work to maintain bodily function. A heart that must beat more could be stressed, under-rested, inflamed, or have limited cardiovascular capabilities," he told Business Insider.

Anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute is typically considered a normal resting heart rate, according to Paz.

Athletes, especially in endurance sports, can have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute.

But don't worry too much about your resting heart rate at any one point in time, said Kate Baird, exercise physiologist at the Hospital for Special Surgery.

It can be influenced by daily factors like how well you slept, whether you're stressed, and if you're hydrated or not,

What's more important than a single measure of your resting heart rate is how it changes over time, Baird said. If your resting heart rate is trending up over time, that's a good indicator that you're becoming more fit.

"You can track relative changes to see that the system is getting stronger," she said.

How can you improve your resting heart rate?

Your heart is a muscle. As with your biceps or your quads, you can exercise to make it stronger and more effective. As you strengthen your heart, it can operate more efficiently, which means it doesn't need to work as hard to keep you functioning.

"As you train, your resting heart rate is going to go down," Paz said.

Both high-intensity and low-intensity workouts benefit your heart, so a mix of both is a good bet.

Thomson said he treats exercise like investing in better heart health by diversifying his fitness portfolio, spending about 80% of the time exercising at a steady, easy pace and the remaining 20% doing high-intensity exercise.

"To keep things simple, do a lot of easy effort cardio where you can have a conversation while doing it," he said. "I'd also recommend training 1-2 times a week with high intensity where you get extremely out of breath."

For high intensity, Thomson recommends trying workouts such as:

  • Four rounds of five minutes of hard cardio, with three minutes of rest between rounds.

  • Sprinting or running uphill for 30 seconds, resting for 90 seconds, and repeating for 10-15 rounds.

He said that while sprinting is great for high-intensity, too much can leave you prone to injury, so mix it up with other heart-pumping exercises like a sled push or pull, ski erg machine, assault bike, or rower.

Depending on your fitness level, examples of low-intensity workouts include activities like:

  • 45 minutes to an hour of brisk walking or light jogging.

  • 45 minutes of biking at a steady, conversational pace.

  • 30 minutes of walking with moderate resistance, such as hiking or rucking with a weighted pack.

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