What is a Recovery Heart Rate?

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  • Written By: B. Miller
  • Edited By: Andrew Jones
  • Last Modified Date: 21 January 2020
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Recovery heart rate is a measure of the time it takes for the heart to return to its resting rate after exercise. In general, the faster the heart recovers to its resting rate, the better physical shape one is in. Checking recovery heart rate can also be a way to determine if one is over-exercising, overheated, or dehydrated.

To find a recovery heart rate, it is first necessary to find the resting heart rate. Do this by taking the pulse and counting the number of heartbeats in one minute. This might be 70 or 80 beats per minute, for example. There are numerous charts online to help one determine an ideal resting heart rate. After determining the standard resting heart rate, it is necessary to take the heart rate again while exercising. This heart rate will be considerably higher, usually from 100 to 200 beats per minute depending on one's age, weight, and fitness level.

For the most accurate measurement of recovery heart rate and fitness level, measure the heart rate both at peak exercise level and immediately once exercising has stopped. Then, measure heart rate at 15 to 20 second intervals until it returns to its original resting rate. The amount of time it takes to return to normal rhythms, as well as the amount of beats per minute that the heart rate decreases, is the most accurate measure of recovery heart rate.


In general, recovery heart rate should be a decrease of 30 to 50 beats in the first minute, and 15 to 25 beats per minute after that, until it returns to normal. If a heart recovers slower than 12 beats per minute, it may indicate a medical issue, such as heart disease, as well as exhaustion or dehydration. It is important to determine recovery heart rate, and there are many ways to do so.

The first and simplest is the method described above, simply counting the heartbeats by taking the pulse. A trainer at a gym will likely use a similar method. In addition, many people wear heart rate monitors, which are often strapped to the body and constantly measure heart rate during exercise. These are beneficial because they can help users stay within their target heart rate zone, while still measuring the recovery heart rate time to determine physical fitness. Some heart rate monitors will also keep track of the measurement over time, allowing users to see improvement.


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