The heart is one of the most vital organs in the body. Heart rate changes regularly depending on what you are doing – it will be higher during physical activity and lower when lying down. Resting heart rate is the number of beats per minute your heart makes after you have been resting for a short period of time.

One of the main benefits of exercise is a stronger heart. Exercise or physical activity causes the heart to adapt just like it does any other muscle. During a period of physical activity/exercise the heart is stimulated to beat faster and as the heart learns to deal with the increased stimulus it causes long term changes in resting heart rate. The heart improves its ability to contract/beat and it is able to pump the blood round the body more efficiently.

Cardiac output is a measure of the volume of blood pumped out of the heart per minute. Cardiac output is maintained by heart rate and the amount of blood that is pumped out of the heart in a single beat. As the heart is now more effective and pumping out more blood per single beat the resting heart rate is able to reduce without reducing the cardiac output (volume of blood pumped out the heart per minute). This means the heart is under less pressure.

Reducing resting heart rate has been linked to a longer and healthier life, but why?

Reducing resting heart rate has been linked to a longer and healthier life. This is because every heart beat puts a slight amount of stress on the heart and the arteries. Therefore, the less times the heart beats in a minute the less stress the heart is under. This reduces the chance of complications if you do have heart disease or reduces the chance of getting heart disease in the first place. The great thing is that exercise can modify your heart rate and reduce it. By reducing the heart rate by 20 beats per minute can reduce your risk of heart disease by between 30% and 50%.

Most importantly taking pressure of the heart by reducing our heart rate means we are less tired. Being less tired during everyday activities allows us to conserve our energy for activities we want to take part in, whether this walking or running, playing with children, getting upstairs or completing a charity bike ride.

References:

Arnold. J.M., Fitchett. D. H., Howlett. J. G., Lonn E. M. & Tardiff. J. (2008) ‘Resting heart rate: a modifiable prognostic indicator of cardiovascular risk and outcomes’ The Canadian Journal of Cardiology.

Harvard Health Publishing (2008), ‘Slower heart rate may translate into longer life, reports Harvard Heart Letter’ Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.

LeWine. H (2017) ‘Increase in resting heart rate is a signal worth watching’ Harvard Health Publishing, Harvard Medical School.