So if exercise lowers resting heart rate, why do some sedentary “lazy” people have very slow heart rates?
Yes, this is very possible: A totally out of shape person who gets zero structured exercise could have a low resting pulse, like in the 60s. Does this in and of itself mean they’re fit?
“Genetics impact heart rate,” begins Alvaro Waissbluth, MD, an Ohio-based heart surgeon board certified in interventional cardiology and cardiovascular diseases, and founder of Eat Tank, an educational nutrition initiative that provides simple tools and practical knowledge for better understanding food.
“Twp. people doing and eating exactly the same thing their whole life can have drastically different resting heart rates – just like they will tan to differing degrees based on similar sun exposure and just like their risk of cancer is different,” continues Dr. Waissbluth.
“Also a slow resting heart rate can indicate a deterioration of the conducting system of the heart.”
A slow resting pulse can be indicative of a healthy heart in people who exercise.
But in the person who does not exercise? The slow resting heart rate “can also be indicative of a problem, so it may need to be investigated to make sure nothing worrisome is going on.”
Is there any data out on the mortality risk/life span of sedentary people with slow resting heart rates compared to sedentary people with faster resting pulses, assuming all other variables are matched and adjusted for like smoking, obesity, etc.?
Dr. Waissbluth says, “Yes – but not much. There is some data that suggest a resting heart rate higher than 76 beats per minute is associated with an increased risk of having a heart attack.”
One way to help get the beats per minute under 76 during rest is to practice stress management.
Persistent or free-floating anxiety can keep the ticker going at an undesirably fast rate even when you’re sitting at a computer or watching TV.
Stop smoking and do not entertain the idea that housework substitutes for structured aerobic exercise!
Commit to structured aerobic exercise like walking briskly on a treadmill with an arm pump instead of holding on.
Dr. Waissbluth is affiliated with Atrium Medical Center and has been in practice for 25+ years. Visit Eat Tank.
Lorra Garrick has been covering medical, fitness and cybersecurity topics for many years, having written thousands of articles for print magazines and websites, including as a ghostwriter. She’s also a former ACE-certified personal trainer.