Why and How to lower your resting heart rate

Matej Nemček 🌱🌍
8 min readJul 27, 2020

It’s been since the last few years I’ve started noticing my RHR and how I feel overall. I assumed, when I have a higher RHR, my day is pretty terrible.

Higher RHR can signal you are being burned out, tachycardia, hypernatremia, hypertension, sodium toxicity, various cardiovascular problems are connected to higher inflammation in your body

Photo by Olivier Collet on Unsplash

A recent study funded by Apple, the Apple Heart Study, concluded that an Apple Watch app was able to identify atrial fibrillation with an 84% accuracy.

Mind that nowadays fitness trackers from Apple, Fitbit, Garmin, Polar, Xiaomi … can detect abnormal heart rates. Better mind your resting heart rate today and you can pass heart surgeries ahead of time.

Photo by Gerardo Ramirez on Unsplash

What we know

The most established fact about resting heart rate is that it’s inversely associated with a person’s level of physical fitness. In other words: The fitter you are, the lower your resting heart rate (elite athletes, for example, tend to have notoriously low heart rates). This happens because, as you exercise, your heart muscle becomes stronger and requires fewer heartbeats to pump blood.

Why does it matter to lower your RHR? It matters for those who want to have a longer lifespan, i.e. pursue longevity movement.

Let’s imagine the scale. What’s the highest, low and best mean average? In first, depends and it’s highly individual. Some of us have smaller hearts, but nothing can stop you to adjust yourself to lower values.

“In general, when we talk about resting heart rate, there is pretty good evidence that lower is better.”

The resting heart rate for an adult typically varies between 60 and 100 beats per minute. Mine average is ~50 bpm, I’m 197 cm tall, weight ~105kg, but when my heart goes to over 60 bpm, I don’t feel good anymore that day. My frequent causalities were, I had stressful training day before, eat late, high screen time just before sleep, drifted from origin sleep schedule, nervous.

For example, what’s the bottom, five-time Tour De France winning champion cyclist, Miguel Indurain had a resting heart rate of just 28 beats per minute.

Quick calculation, for 85 years life span at 100 bpm, (85 * 365 * 24 * 60 * 100) brings us to 4,467,600,000 cycles/contracts for your heart. At 40 bpm it could be 1,787,040 000.

Do you see that 2.6B gap? I think it’s a fair difference.

With an average life expectancy of 75 and 85 years in most of the Western world countries, quick math reveals that the ticker should expect to be contracting anywhere between 2,365,200,000 and 4,467,600,000 times.

Well-trained athlete’s resting heart rate can fall as low as below 40 bpm. If the athlete’s heart does just 40% of work, I think it’s a huge surplus comparing to someone who has their heart rate at 100bpm.

Compared to people whose resting heart rates were under 70 beats per minute at the study’s start and its end, those whose resting heart rate rose from under 70 to more than 85 were 90% more likely to have died during the course of the study. The increase in risk was slightly less for those with resting heart rates of 70 to 85 at the study’s start and who had a greater than 85 at the study’s end.

Photo by Guillaume Issaly on Unsplash

Apparently, lower RHR contributes something around 5-15 years longer lifespan, at least.

For example, 4.4B cycles at 40 bpm would stand for 212 years.

Nice life span discount.

How to lower your resting heart rate

I had once a nice training ride on a mountain bike in woods and I’ve decided to shoot question r/Garmin. I’ve tried to crowdfund it as many opinions as possible so I’m not holding a single perspective on this topic.

Results we’re pretty fruitful and I’ve learned something new.

Takeaways I got are — In no particular order

  • Lower your GI — Glycemic Index — Obviously, this is the biggest correlation with my heart rate. When I eat something sweet 1–2 hours before sleep, my body does not rest overnight.
  • Intermittent fasting — My sub-consciousness is to eat at 6–7 pm last and small food. My first at 11–12 am the next day. That’s around 17 hours of pause between the next food. Besides lower RHR, it gives me mental clarity which is very needed as I’m a programmer.
  • Long, low-pulse sessions (running or bike?) — This is how you are preparing for marathons and adjusting your body to handle (good) stress.
  • Alcohol-free — stay away from it, nobody wants free calories nor escapism 😅
  • Stimulant free — This is the hardest one, I’m still doing my Yerba Mate, but I’m experimenting with lowering my dosage. Stimulants can cause dehydration, increasing the heart’s workload.
  • High-intensity interval training — I can confirm, I have much lower, i.e dip in RHR when I did anaerobic training the previous day. For me, it means to go into Zone 4, at the Lactate threshold zone. BPM may vary for everyone, for me, it’s around ~171bpm. That’s why its good to have your zones set rightthere are methods like % Max HR, % Lactate Threshold or % Heart Rate Reserve
  • Quit Smoking — I don’t smoke, fairly easy for me.
  • A lot of water — When the body is dehydrated, the heart has to work harder to stabilize blood flow. Throughout the day, drink plenty of sugar- and caffeine-free beverages, such as water and herbal tea.
  • Reduce (emotional) stress — Removing stressing factors from everyday life are, obv stressful 😅 but when you remove your toxic and negativity factors, it will hugely impact on your quality of sleep. It will definitely pay off, long-term. Performing the relaxation response, meditation, tai chi, and other stress-busting techniques lower the resting heart rate over time. Stress caused by work, caring for a loved one, or financial burdens all cause the heart and the rest of the body to work harder, to maintain a normal rhythm and flow. Try to resolve sources of substantial long-term stress.
  • Less fat — The larger the body, the more the heart must work to supply it with blood. Losing weight can help slow an elevated resting heart rate. Mind your BMI.
  • Low sodium — Apparently, there are flawed studies on this, from my point view reduction would be best. As we don’t know how much salt is put into processed food already we eat. I think in general it’s society culprit

In conclusion sodium reduction increases heart rate by as much (2.4%) as it decreases blood pressure (2.5%). This side-effect, which may cause harmful health effects, contributes to the need for a revision of the present dietary guidelines.

  • A lot of quality sleep — You need at least some rest before the next training, simple not to put too much load on your body. Garmin introduced the so-called body battery. You could be easily aware of how your body recovers over time and you can adjust your loads to it. Mind to have enough REM & Deep Sleep.
  • Don’t eat late — the biggest one I think. Try to eat at least 3–4 hours before your sleep schedule. Your next day starts just the day before. Advice is to eat small and light foods, it could take body 2–3 hours to fully process your last meal.
  • Eat healthily — Beef burgers aren’t your friends here. Salads probably play a better role. What worked for me, I was missing protein intake, once I’ve added it, my RHR went down.
  • Limit screen time 1h before sleep — It’s golden advice, limit screen time at least an hour before sleep, your mind will calm, your awareness will eventually shut down. You can incorporate various routine for your better wellbeing, it’s even topic for Google
  • Omega3 — fatty acids, found in fish, lean meats, nuts, grains, and legumes. When I’ve started supplementing vegan omega3 with some fair amounts of EPA & DHA, it lowered my blood pressure. This made me go down from 53 to 49 and lower, difference 4–5bpm, I didn’t adjust anything at my training at this time.
  • Be mindful of your breathing — Garmin has breath-works activity, but you can start to do it yourself even without watches. Just start before sleep for 5–10 minutes before sleep, 4–7–8 cycle. Practice relaxation techniques, such activities that increase self-awareness and mindfulness, i.e meditation, guided visualization.
  • Away from urban environment — This works for me, visiting woods lowers blood pressure, improves mood also called forest bathing 💆‍♀️🌲🛁

Recognizing those benefits, in 1982, the Japanese Ministry of Agriculture, Forestry and Fisheries even coined a term for it: shinrin-yoku. It means taking in the forest atmosphere or “forest bathing,” and the ministry encourages people to visit forests to relieve stress and improve health.

The good thing about a low heart rate is you will feel great and if you manage to keep it, you will make definitely better long-term decisions.

You can see, that targeting lower RHR is possible, but you need to maintain strong routines and habits.

On this photo, we had little booze with friends outside and drift our sleep schedule just a little, 20 minutes. RHR went off almost 5–6bpm.


Could human lives be extended by slowing down our hearts? Triggered by the observation that mammals with a higher heart rate live shorter than those with a slower one, this is the question that Dr. Herbert J. Levine, an eminent cardiologist and professor emeritus at Tufts University School of Medicine, asked in his 1997 article “Rest Heart Rate and Life Expectancy.” Source

To complicate things further, resting heart rates can widely vary from person to person, as much as 70 beats per minute, according to a new study that looked at the largest dataset of daily resting heart rates ever collected.

I hope this take could be an eye-opener for someone and they will mind their RHR and take care of themselves if needed. A lot of things have changed since I’ve been pursuing lower RHR and most of them are beneficial for my health. Even my memory is in better shape as a side-effect.

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Keep it up!