What is heart rate recovery?

Heart rate recovery measures how quickly your heart returns to its normal resting rate after exercise. Some medical and fitness professionals use this measurement to assess the heart’s ability to recover from strenuous exercise.

This article explains why heart rate recovery is important, how to test it, and tips for improving your recovery heart rate.

What is heart rate recovery?

If you’ve taken a fitness class or personal training session, you’ve probably heard people mention your heart rate recovery. Heart rate recovery is different from your target heart rate (the heart rate you aim to increase during exercise) or your normal resting heart rate (the heart rate when you are not doing any activity).

Your recovery heart rate measures the change in heart rate in the first few minutes after exercise. Usually, it is measured within the first one to three minutes after exercise. Some people refer to heart rate recovery as post-exercise heart rate.

Generally speaking, the better the physical fitness, the faster the heart recovers after exercise.

Why heart rate recovery is important

Heart rate recovery is important because it can be used to understand how the heart recovers after stress. Exercising intentionally and safely increases the stress on the body. The stress of exercise helps you maintain healthy muscles and lungs, as well as cardiovascular (heart and blood vessel) health.

If your heart doesn’t recover well after exercise, it could be a sign of poor fitness or even an underlying health problem.

A 2017 study found that a slow drop in heart rate after exercise increases the risk of the following health problems:

  • heart disease
  • Diabetes (a chronic disease that affects how your body uses glucose or sugar)
  • chronic inflammation
  • heart attack (when blood flow to the heart is blocked)
  • stroke (when blood flow to the brain is interrupted or reduced)
  • arrhythmia
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Because of its importance to fitness levels and cardiovascular health, heart rate recovery is used by many healthcare professionals to predict disease risk and risk of death from heart disease.

How to Test Your Recovery Heart Rate

Your heart rate recovery is just a measure of how your heart rate changes after exercise. You can manually check your heart rate by feeling the pulse on your wrist, count for 15 seconds, and multiply the number by 4. Then after one minute, repeat the test.

The downside to manually tracking your heart rate is the challenge of assessing your higher heart rate while exercising. Once you stop exercising, your heart rate starts to slow.

Another option is to use a tracker or monitor. Fitness trackers and watches that track heart rate are increasingly popular and make it easy to test your recovery heart rate. These devices record your heart rate during your workout and make it easier to measure how your heart rate slows down after your workout.

Your heart rate recovery is the difference between your heart rate at the end of your workout and one minute later. So if you end your workout with a heart rate of 130 beats per minute, and after a minute of rest your heart rate is 110 beats per minute, your recovery heart rate is 20 beats per minute.

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A heart rate recovery between 12 and 23 beats per minute is considered healthy.

Factors Affecting Recovery Heart Rate

It’s not just your overall fitness level that affects your heart rate recovery. Therefore, to track changes in heart rate recovery, it is important to understand how these factors affect it.


Drinking enough water is essential for healthy bodily function. Studies have shown that dehydration may cause changes in heart function and increase heart rate when dehydrated. Lack of water also slows heart rate recovery after exercise.


Caffeine stimulates the nervous system, which slows the body’s ability to recover after a workout. A 2017 study found that caffeine consumption negatively affected heart rate and blood pressure recovery after exercise.


Fatigue and lack of sleep can affect many parts of your body, including your heart. Research shows that fatigue affects peak heart rate and heart rate recovery after exercise.

How to Improve Heart Rate Recovery

Now that you understand heart rate recovery, you may be wondering how to improve it. First, make sure you consider other factors that may affect your heart rate recovery, such as lack of sleep, caffeine intake, and dehydration.

These factors can alter the accuracy of the numbers when tracking changes in heart rate recovery. The most important factor in increasing your recovery heart rate is physical activity.

If you’re feeling overwhelmed by the idea of ​​more exercise and increased activity, know that this doesn’t have to be a big change. Even small changes in exercise can help you improve your fitness. The focus should be on starting where you are now, rather than thinking it needs to be an unrealistic goal.

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If you are currently sedentary, start by adding one or two short walks per day. Then slowly increase the time you move. Even activities like vacuuming, sweeping, or mowing with a push mower count as part of your routine.

Here are some other tips to increase your physical activity and fitness levels:

  • walk the stair.
  • Park your car further away from the door.
  • Slowly increase your exercise.
  • Sign up for a group fitness class.
  • Hire a personal trainer.
  • Go for a walk with a friend.
  • Garden or do yard work.
  • cleaning the house.
  • Test out different types of workouts.

If you have any questions about your heart rate during and after exercise, please contact your healthcare provider.


Heart rate recovery measures how quickly your heart rate returns to your resting frequency. You can use your recovery heart rate to assess your fitness level and overall cardiovascular fitness.

You can manually test your heart rate recovery or use a monitor to measure how it changes. For example, your heart rate drops 15 beats per minute, and with a one-minute rest, your recovery rate is 15. Your fitness level is the most important factor in heart rate recovery, but it’s also influenced by fatigue, caffeine intake, and water intake.

VigorTip words

Maintaining a healthy heart is important for preventing disease and maintaining good health as you age. Staying active and increasing your frequency of activity throughout the day can help improve post-workout recovery. If you have any questions or concerns about heart rate recovery, please consult your healthcare professional.