Measure Your Heart Rate Recovery Time

Here's what your heart says about your exercise recovery.


By Tesa Johns


Cardiovascular diseases are the number 1 cause of death globally; more people die annually from heart diseases than from any other cause. Heart disease is the leading cause of death for both men and women. Exercise, nutrition, and other lifestyle interventions greatly affect how the human heart functions. Significant improvements in heart health can be achieved by strengthening the heart muscle through exercise.

The less efficient your heart is, the more it has to beat per minute to get your blood where it needs to go.

Cardiovascular exercise on a regular basis strengthens the heart muscle. Developing a stronger heart muscle allows for an increase in the volume of blood your heart pumps out with every beat. A great way to measure this cardiovascular improvement is by calculating your Recovery Heart Rate, a measure of your cardiac efficiency.

Your recovery heart rate is the speed at which your heart returns to resting after exercise. This calculation can help discover or indicate physical cardiac condition and the risk of certain diseases. People who have a longer heart rate recovery time are at a higher risk of death than people with shorter recovery times, regardless of physical condition or other risk factors. People in better cardiovascular condition tend to have lower heart rates during peak exercise, and return to their resting heart rate more quickly after physical activity. Before starting a new exercise regimen, record your resting heart rate as a baseline and see how it improves over time with your new fitness efforts.

To calculate your heart rate recovery time, you’ll need:

  • A watch or clock with a second hand or a simple stopwatch
  • Something to record your number with

Step 1: Find Your Target Heart Rate

Use the chart below to find the target heart rate for your age group.

  • 20-29 years old: 120-160 beats/ minute
  • 30-39 years old: 114-152 beats/ minute
  • 40-49 years old: 108-144 beats/ minute
  • 50-59 years old: 102-136 beats/ minute
  • 60-69 years old: 96-128 beats/ minute
  • 70-79 years old: 90-120 beats/ minute
  • 80-89 years old: 84-112 beats/ minute
  • 90-99 years old: 78-104 beats/ minute
  • 100 years old or older: 72-96 beats/ minute

*Target heart rates are based on 60%-80% of estimated maximum heart rates (220 minus age).

Now, practice finding your pulse point and calculating your heart rate:

Place one or two fingertips (not a thumb) on the opposite wrist, just below the base of your thumb. Count the number of heartbeats you feel in 10 seconds. Multiply that number by 6 to get your heart rate per minute.

Better yet! Use the Argus app and your can achieve this reading on your phone!

Step 2: Finish Exercise

The goal in this step is to increase your heart rate, so choose an activity that’s going to get your heart pumping. Go for a brisk walk or run around the block, jump rope, use an elliptical trainer, or do any activity that will increase your heart rate. While you’re exercising, check your heart rate frequently.

You’re aiming to hit your target heart rate from the chart above. Once your heartbeat is within the target range, stop exercising and record two measurements:

  1. Your heart rate immediately after stopping
  2. Your heart rate 2 minutes later

Step 3: Calculate Your Heart Rate Recovery

Subtract your 2-minute heart rate from the heart rate you took immediately after exercising. The faster your heart rate recovers (or slows down) the fitter and healthier your heart.

If the difference between the two numbers is:

  • Less than 22: Your biological age is slightly older than your calendar age.
  • 22-52: Your biological age is about the same as your calendar age.
  • 53-58: Your biological age is slightly younger than your calendar age.
  • 59-65: Your biological age is moderately younger than your calendar age.
  • 66 or more: Your biological age is a lot younger than your calendar age.

Biological age is how old you or in this case, your heart, seems while calendar age is how old your are according to your birth date and the calendar year.

Work at your recovery heart rate, you may be amazed by the changes.

Beginning exercisers who aren’t accustomed to physical activity experience noticeable decreases in resting heart rate after exercise. During a 10-week fitness program, you can expect to see a reduction of about 10 beats per minute in your resting heart rate. Through a consistent fitness program, you can consistently improve your cardiovascular health.

Tesa is new to blogging, but hopes to make a big impact with her vast knowledge of athletics and experience. Tesa recently earned her bachelor's degree at the Pennsylvania State University. While majoring in Athletic Training and minoring in psychology, she worked with various division one collegiate sports teams. Tesa is continuing her education by pursuing her Master's of Science in Kinesiology with a concentration in sports pedagogy at The Louisiana State University. Tesa is a board certified Athletic Trainer and a Performance Enhancement Specialist. Outside of the training room, Tesa enjoys going on runs and working out for leisure.

Main Photo Credit: Maridav/; Second Photo Credit: wavebreakmedia/; Third Photo Credit: Dragon Images/; Fourth Photo Credit: Maksym Poriechkin/