In the worlds of physical fitness and cardiac health your resting heart rate – the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are sitting quietly – is as important as getting your heart into the “zone” for maximum calorie burning efficiency.
For athletes, a low resting heart rate is usually a sign of good health, though for those who are extremely sedentary it can be a sign of heart disease.
Generally speaking, your resting heart rate should be no higher than 70 bpm (beats per minute), and having a higher one, according to an Italian survey, can increase the risk of dying from heart disease by up to 78%.
How, then, can you reduce your resting heart rate, and improve your overall health at the same time?
Lower Your Resting Heart Rate
- Stay hydrated. Drinking water isn’t just good for your skin and your digestive tract, it helps keep your blood flowing through your veins as well. Eight glasses of water a day is the general rule, but you should increase that if you live in an extremely dry climate, or routinely engage in extreme physical activity.
- When you’ve got to go… This may be a little bit delicate, but it’s really important to your heart, as well as your kidneys, to relieve yourself when you feel the urge. Don’t hold it. A full bladder stresses your entire circulatory system, and can increase your heart rate by up to nine beats per minute.
- Get some rest. An Australian study that involved rousing volunteers from their sleep many times a night (often with loud noises) found that being startled from sleep can increase your heart rate by 13 beats per minutes.Even without being rudely awakened by loud noises, however, sleep is an important part of fitness and health. Weight loss, for example, is almost impossible without regularly getting about eight hours of rest each night.
- Get a massage. Massage, meditation, a warm bubble bath – anything that puts you into a relaxed state also reduces your resting heart rate. A British study even found that when volunteers received hour-long reflexology treatments, their resting heart rates decreased by an average of eight beats per minute.
- Exercise regularly. Cardio is the key – aerobics, running, biking, swimming – anything that gets your blood pumping is good, and it also increases the efficiency of your heart, reducing the number of beats per minute required to keep your circulatory system functioning whether you’re active or resting.If you’re already exercising routinely, consider increasing the intensity of your cardio workouts: if you’re already walking, jog. If you’re a jogger, start running. The trick is to vary the pace: do three minutes at 70% of your maximum heart rate, followed by four at 90%.
Reducing your normal resting heart rate temporarily is easy. Keeping it low takes work and patience.
Be sure to seek medical advice before starting any exercise regime if you’ve never exercised before, and pay attention to your body.
What’s your resting heart rate? The best time to test is first thing in the morning before even getting out of bed.