What does it mean if a physically fit person has a fast resting heart rate?


Do you exercise a lot, consider yourself physically fit, but have a fast resting heart rate and wonder if this will negatively affect your risk for all-cause mortality or heart problems?

A resting heart rate of between 60 and 100 is normal. However, the question is this:

Is mortality affected if someone’s pulse is usually around 85 versus 65, even if that person exercises?

Does it make a difference if that individual’s resting pulse is towards the higher end of normal as opposed to the lower end of normal?

Researchers wanted to find out if resting heart rate influenced a person’s risk of mortality, regardless of fitness level.

The Study

For the study, the health of almost 3,000 men was tracked for 16 years.

All sorts of vitals were measured, including aerobic fitness (cycling test), height, weight, blood fats, blood sugars and blood pressure. And of course, resting heart rate.

As expected, men who had a high resting heart rate also tended to have the lowest levels of physical fitness, plus hypertension and more blood fats.

Physically fit men tended to have lower resting pulses.

But the results can’t be denied:

The faster the resting heart rate, the greater was the risk of mortality. And this result was independent of fitness level.

What about factors that could influence results? These were adjusted for.

– A resting heart rate of 51-80 bpm was tied to a 40-50 percent increased death risk.

– Between 81 and 90 bpm doubled the mortality risk, when compared to men with the lowest rate.

– Above 90 bpm meant a tripled risk.

Every 10-22 additional bpm increased mortality by 16 percent, overall.

The report specifically states:

“We found that irrespective of level of physical fitness, subjects with high resting heart rates fare worse than subjects with lower heart rates.”

It adds: “This suggests that a high resting heart rate is not a mere marker of poor physical fitness, but is an independent risk factor.”

What should you do?

First off, re-evaluate your exercise habits. It’s a well-known fact that a regular exercise program lowers resting heart rate.

It’s also a well-known fact that many people unknowingly inflate their perception of just how much they exercise.

“I get plenty of exercise” is an assertion spoken by many men and women who — in actuality — don’t even have a regular, consistent workout regimen.

Many belong to the “any movement counts towards exercise” camp.

“Any movement,” to these men and women, may include standing in one spot for 10 minutes tossing a rubber toy for their dog to fetch, or doing basic housework.

This just isn’t enough to effectively train the heart to be more efficient.

To lower resting pulse, you may want to consider high intensity interval training.

This can be done only twice a week, on any cardio equipment or outdoors.

To learn more about high intensity interval training, go here.

Lorra Garrick is a former personal trainer certified by the American Council on Exercise. At Bally Total Fitness she trained clients of all ages for fat loss, muscle building, fitness and improved health. 
Top image: Shutterstock/VGstockstudio
Source: heart.bmj.com/content/early/2013/03/21/heartjnl-2012-303375.short?g=w_heart_ahead_tab