Last updated: Jan 19, 2024

Heart Rate Recovery: The Key to Cardiovascular Fitness

Heart Rate Recovery: The Key to Cardiovascular Fitness

When it comes to cardiovascular health, one of the best ways of assessing physical fitness is by measuring heart rate recovery. Heart rate recovery looks at how quickly your heart rate can return to its resting pace after it peaks during physical activity.

Heart rate recovery is an important measurement because it’s one of the best indicators of heart health, Specifically, it gives you some insight into your chance of developing future heart disease.

How to Calculate Heart Rate Recovery

To measure your heart rate, you can use a wearable sports watch like Garmin or Fitbit. You can also do it the old-fashioned way by placing a finger on your pulse and counting your number of heartbeats in one minute.

First, you need to know your resting heart rate, so measure this first. Sit still and relax for 5-10 minutes to allow your heart rate to return to its resting rate. Then, use your preferred technique to measure your heart beats per minute.

Next, you need to measure your heart rate at its peak. To get your post-exercise heart rate reading, measure your heart rate immediately after the most intense part of your workout. The formula for Heart Rate Recovery is:

Heart Rate Recovery = Peak Heart Rate – Post-Exercise Heart Rate

What is a Good Recovery Heart Rate?

According to Stamford University Cardiologist, David M. Axelrod, M.D, the ideal recovery heart rate varies by age. For adults, 22 is ideal. This drops slightly for 50–60-year-olds but starts to drop considerably after age 60.

  • 20 to 49: 22 beats per minute
  • 50 to 59: 21 beats per minute
  • 60 to 69: 18 beats per minute
  • 70 to 79: 14 beats per minute

Physical Fitness and the Autonomic Nervous System

The autonomic nervous system consists of the sympathetic and parasympathetic branches. It’s responsible for controlling functions like heart rate, blood pressure, and respiration. During physical fitness activities, such as cardiovascular exercise or strength training, the autonomic nervous system adjusts dynamically to meet your body’s demands. Here’s how it works:

  1. Sympathetic Nervous System (SNS): This branch of the autonomic nervous system is often called the “fight or flight” system. It’s activated during particularly intense physical activity. It releases stress hormones like adrenaline, which increases heart rate and redirects blood flow to your muscles. These responses prepare the body for action and enhance physical performance.
  2. Parasympathetic Nervous System (PNS): The PNS is known as the “rest and digest” system. It dominates after exercise or during periods of relaxation. PNS helps lower your heart rate and conserve energy. It also promotes recovery.

When you exercise, your heart rate increases, driven by the SNS. After you stop exercising, the PNS takes over, causing your heart rate to gradually return to its baseline. You need to maintain a balance between both SNS and PNS to maintain overall health and prevent overexertion.

A faster heart rate recovery suggests efficient autonomic nervous system transitions and improved cardiovascular fitness. Because of this, people who exercise regularly are more likely to have a well-balanced autonomic nervous system and therefore have a good heart rate recovery.

How to Improve Heart Rate Recovery

If you’ve calculated your heart rate recovery, and you want to improve it, there are lifestyle improvements you can make today:

Physical Activity

The best way to improve heart rate recovery is to improve your fitness level.

Exercise capacity is directly related to your overall cardiovascular health. By increasing your fitness level, you can reduce your mortality risk due to abnormal HRR. Cardiovascular exercise – such as a fitness class, jog or aerobic exercise increases your heart health by making the heart work hard.

As it is used more, your heart’s ability to do its job becomes easier. Like any muscle, the more you train it, the stronger it becomes. As you become stronger and fitter, your heart rate recovery will improve.

Cardiac Rehab

Cardiac rehab is a fancy way of saying ‘treating your heart well’. It’s a lifestyle change that uses optimal physical activity, diet and other risk factors to give you the best heart rate recovery possible.

Some people consult healthcare professionals to oversee their exercise program and diet. This may start with an exercise stress test to test your heart rate recovery. Speak to your healthcare provider to find out if cardiac rehab is an option for you.

Mitigate Risk Factors

Certain risk factors affect your likeliness of developing heart disease and other cardiovascular events. If you’re more susceptible to these, it’s particularly important to maintain a healthy heart rate recovery.

Risk factors include:

  • Medical history (such as previous heart attacks and reduced heart function)
  • Caffeine intake
  • Smoking
  • Alcohol consumption
  • High blood pressure
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Poor diet

NutriKane™: Food For Your Heart

Alongside improving your fitness level, diet plays a very important role in improving your heart rate recovery. But it’s difficult to get all the nutrients you need from diet alone.

NutriKane’s range of products are specially created to enhance your overall health. Choose from formulations to regulate diabetes, immunity, inflammation, digestion and more in our online store. For more information about boosting your overall health, have a look at this article on reducing your stroke risk naturally.

By <a href="" target="_self">NutriKane Team</a>

By NutriKane Team

We are strong advocates for the healing power of nutrition. Through scientific research and development, it is our mission to create an effective range of targeted nutritional therapies to combat common conditions impacting human health. Learn more.

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