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Resting heart rate

5-minute read

What is resting heart rate?

Your resting heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are at rest — such as when you are relaxed, sitting or lying down.

Resting heart rate varies from person to person. Knowing yours can give you an important sign of your heart health.

What is a normal resting heart rate?

For adults, a normal resting heart rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats a minute.

Usually, a lower resting heart rate means your heart is working more efficiently and is more fit.

For example, an athlete might have a resting heart rate of around 40 beats a minute.

How do I check my resting heart rate?

To check your heart rate:

  • Sit down and rest for 5 minutes.
  • Turn your wrist so your palm is facing up.
  • Feel for a pulse at thumb side of your wrist.
  • Once you feel it, count how many times you feel a beat in 30 seconds. Then double it.

If you can't find your pulse at your wrist, put 2 fingers on the side of your neck, next to your windpipe.

If you still can’t find a pulse, ask someone else to feel it for you.

Person checking for their pulse on their wrist.
To check your heart rate manually, feel for your pulse at the thumb side of your wrist.

Many people now monitor their heart rate with a wearable heart rate monitor, activity tracker or smart watch.

Which factors can influence heart rate?

Many things can affect your heart rate.

  • Age — as you get older the rate and regularity of your pulse can change. This can be a sign of a heart problem.
  • Sex — heart rate is generally higher in females than males.
  • Physical activity — if you've been moving around a lot, your heart rate will increase.
  • Fitness level — your resting heart rate may be lower if you're very fit.
  • Air and body temperature — on hot days, your heart needs to pump more quickly.
  • Emotions — when you feel stressed or overly excited your heart beats faster.
  • Medicines — some medicines can decrease your resting heart rate (for example, beta blockers), While other medicines can increase it (for example, thyroid medicines).
  • Substance use — alcohol, caffeine and smoking can all affect your heart rate.
  • Time of day — your heart rate tends to be lower at night.
  • Body position — for example, whether you are sitting up or lying down.

If my resting heart rate is normal, is my blood pressure normal?

Your resting heart rate is not an indication of your blood pressure. The only way to check blood pressure is to measure it directly.

If my resting heart rate is slow, is it dangerous?

People can have a resting heart rate of 40 if they are very fit. But a slow pulse could also be a sign of problems. If you are not sure, or if you have been feeling faint, dizzy or short of breath, see your doctor.

If my resting heart rate is fast, is it dangerous?

A fast-resting heart rate (higher than 100 beats per minute) can be a sign of problems. See your doctor for advice.

Seek urgent medical attention if:

  • your heart is racing, and the rhythm is irregular
  • you feel short of breath
  • you have chest pain

Resources and support

You can call the healthdirect helpline on 1800 022 222 (known as NURSE-ON-CALL in Victoria). A registered nurse is available 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

CHECK YOUR SYMPTOMS — Use the Symptom Checker and find out if you need to seek medical help.

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Learn more here about the development and quality assurance of healthdirect content.

Last reviewed: July 2022

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