How to use wearables to lower your resting heart rate

How to use wearables to lower your resting heart rate

A slow beat is the sign of a healthy ticker, here's how to measure it
How to track your resting heart rate

Heart rate tracking is becoming an ever-more crucial ingredient for fitness tech. It's hardly surprising given that how fast your heart beats when you're doing nothing at all reveals a lot about your overall health and fitness.

Unsurprisingly, a lower resting heart rate (RHR) is linked to some very big health benefits including a reduced risk of heart disease.

Essential reading: Best fitness tracker

The good news is that, with the flood of heart rate monitoring wearables hitting the shops, it's now easier than ever to monitor - and improve - your own resting bpm.

And while we can't promise to give you the dicky ticker of an Olympic athlete, here are some tips on how you can use the latest tech to hit a better beat.

What is resting heart rate?

First up, let's clear up what we mean by resting heart rate. Basically RHR refers to how fast your heart beats per minute (bpm) when you're at complete rest, and by that we mean when you've been lying down and haven't moved for ten minutes or so.

Generally speaking, the lower the number, the fitter you are. The average adult will have a resting heart rate between 60-100 beats per minute, while athletes are likely to have a much lower bpm, somewhere between 40-60. Spanish cyclist, and five times Tour de France winner, Miguel Indurain famously had a resting heart of just 28bpm.

Must read: The real world wrist-based heart rate monitoring test

As with anything relating to our bodies, there are lots of factors that influence your RHR. Genetics can play a part but lifestyle tends to have the biggest bearing, with the familiar friends and foes of stress, diet and exercise levels all impacting on how hard your heart works at rest.

It's a story that we all know well. If you don't smoke, don't overdo the alcohol, eat a healthy diet and do regular exercise, the likelihood is you'll have a more positive RHR.

People who are overweight tend to have higher heart rates too. When you're carrying a bit more lumber, your heart has to work at a faster pace to supply blood and nutrients to your entire body. So staying lean is also important.

Why is resting heart rate important?

On top of being a simple barometer for heart health and general wellbeing, knowing your resting heart rate has other great advantages too. Most new fitness wearables and sports watches used RHR stats in tandem with your maximum heart rate, to dictate your heart rate based training zones. Some devices do this automatically but most require you to input your RHR and know this vital stat will add accuracy to other stats like your calorie burn.

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Regularly checking your resting heart rate and comparing it to a benchmark bpm can also reveal stresses on the body, particularly in those training regularly.

Professional sport coaches monitor their athletes' RHR stats daily and use this data to help them make judgement calls as to whether their stars should train that day. A significantly raised bpm (more than 7 above the normal average) can be a sign of overtraining or, even an incoming cold or illness.

How to measure your resting heart rate

You can get your RHR without any modern technology. Some kind of clock, your fingers and an ability to count to 100 will suffice but if you own a heart rate monitoring wearable like the Apple Watch, the Garmin Forerunner 225 or the Fitbit Surge, then it's probably easier to let that do all that tricky number stuff. Not to mention many of the latest devices will also keep a record and adjust your heart rate training zones to be more accurate next time you workout.

You need to be fully relaxed to get a truly accurate resting heart rate. Just sitting down isn't really enough. A good time to do it is when you first wake up, provided you exit the land of nod naturally and rather than being scared awake by a noisy alarm. Once you're awake, continue lying down and rest peacefully for five minutes. Once five minutes have passed, check your heart rate.

Alternatively you can induce the same fully relaxed state at any time during the day by lying down completely still on your back for 10-15 minutes, without distraction. Once you've reached a state of complete and total inner peace and calm, then clock your heart rate and there you have it, your resting heart rate.

It's worth pointing out that it's perfectly normal to see fluctuations of 3-4bpm, and the more regularly you can test the more useful your average will be. Plus you'll be able to chart your progress, and remember it's important to measure yourself against yourself rather than other people.

Use tech to lower your resting heart rate

Even if you're hitting 100bpm there's good news, the same tech you use to clock your RHR can help you lower it too. How? Let's quickly go back to the simplified science.

When you exercise your heart has to work harder and during workouts you're essentially strengthening that pump, so that when you return to rest it doesn't have to work quite as hard to deliver the same amount of blood around the body. Put another way, over time regular exercise gradually slows down your resting heart rate by stimulating the parasympathetic nervous system and lowering your bpm.

Before we talk exercise, we're going to pretend that if you're a smoker you've stopped, you've put down the chips and picked up a bowl of nutrient-packed green veg and you've cut your drinking to a cheeky glass of red rather than a bottle. Well done you.

Now on to the sweaty bit. There are three forms of training that have all been shown to have a positive impact on heart rate - interval training, resistance training and regular aerobic exercise like running or cycling - and plenty of good tracking tech to help you hit those training goals.

Best tech to find your resting heart rate

Fitbit Charge HR

With heart rate tech built into Fitbit's latest activity tracker, you can get a live read out of your pulse. It will keep tabs on your pulse at rest and display the result within the app, plotting its course over a period of the last 30 days.

$149.95, | Amazon

Garmin Vivosmart HR

An update to the original Vivosmart tracker, the new version adds the same optical heart rate monitor as the new flagship Garmin Forerunner 235. The Vivosmart HR excels over its main rival, the Polar A360, which does not use its optical monitor 24/7, and will not track resting heart rate.

$149.99, | Amazon

Jawbone UP3

Originally, the UP3 offered only RHR from its multi-sensor platform - extra readings were added after launch following feedback. With these additional readings you can see your heart rate trends over week and month long periods, and monitor how things like caffeine, alcohol, stress and sleep affect your daily readings.

$179.99, | Amazon

Microsoft Band 2

When reviewing the Band 2 we noted that the resting heart rate reading was pretty accurate compared to a chest strap but during workouts it did throw up some odd readings. The RHR, in comparison with the sleep stats, provide a pretty rich profile.

$249.99, | Amazon

Withings Aura

The best time to measure your heart rate at rest is lying down, just as you've woken up, but the Withings Aura goes one better, and does it while you're asleep. It keeps a nice average score within the app, as well as being one of the best sleep monitors available.

$299, | Amazon


  • blah says:

    Sales pitch, got no usefule info from this article except that I can buy things.

  • triwithms says:

    It's been working for me. Over the last few months I've seen the RHR drop from 65 bpm to 52 while using the FitBit Charge HR. I've tried to clean up my diet a bit, and started doing exercise in the cardio zone 3x's / week. Seeing the RHR plot getting lower is motivating for me as it gives you a measure of progress.

  • Drup says:

    bunch of b.s just advertising 

  • RoyB says:

    I had emergency angioplasty last September. I am now going to the gym 3 times a week and have a FibBit Charge HR.  My resting heart rate has dropped from 62 to 47. It gives me a quantifiable measure of recovery progress in addition to the subjective feeling fitter.  And, there is all the other monitoring stuff to check you are being sufficiently active.

  • Lizzieg says:

    I bought a charge hr in January and in the last 30 days my rhr has dropped from 80 to 69, while improving diet and adding running and aerobic exercise. It's great to see the difference and very motivating!

  • SamB says:

    In the last two months with some intense training and a lifestyle cleanup I've dropped 40lbs and my rhr has gone from 68 to 50. I wouldn't trade my Fitbit for anything. 

  • NobbyK says:

    Have owned a Fitbit Charge HR for 12 months now and lowered RHR to 56. I'm not sure about the accuracy but the trend is correct. The app graphics are excellent. Reviewing active minutes, total steps and heart rate and seeing them all move in the right direction is very motivating.

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