Do you have a goal set this year to get fit, but aren’t quite sure how to measure it? There is a critical fitness indicator to keep track of, and it’s easy to measure.  Your smart watch probably already tracks it, and your doctor regularly measures it. It’s called resting BPM. Setting a fitness goal based on this number is important for your health this year. It could even save your life.

The number of times your heart beats per minute while you are at rest is called resting BPM (beats per minute). This is an accurate indicator of your fitness level. The lower your resting BPM, the better your fitness level. It’s also an indicator for your overall health. The higher your resting BPM, the higher your risk for life-threatening heart problems linked to low fitness, like stroke or heart attack.

Let’s talk numbers. For most adults, having a resting BPM between 60 and 100 BPM is average. However, we urge you to shoot for optimal health and fitness, which would be closer to a resting heart rate of 50-80 BPM. As your age increases, it’s natural for your BPM to increase slightly, but you never want it to go above 100. This indicates that your heart has to work too hard while at rest to circulate blood.

What’s at risk when your resting BPM is high?

If your resting BPM is above 100, you have something called tachycardia. This can be very dangerous, and increases risk of stroke, sudden cardiac arrest and death. If your number is above 100, you should be working with a doctor to make a plan to lower it as soon as possible. The best thing you can do, short term, is to lower caffeine intake as caffeine can cause it to increase.

Resting BPM is a number you have control of. It takes time, but you should purposely take action towards lowering your resting BPM to ensure optimal fitness as you age. It’s a great indicator of a healthy lifestyle, so as you make healthy lifestyle changes, your resting BPM will go down. 

Here are 5 ways to lower your resting BPM:

1. Get moving. Exercise works quickly to lower BPM. Low impact exercises can be enjoyed by men and women of any age, like walking, swimming, or low impact aerobics. If you are younger and able to do a higher impact workout, like tennis or running, these activities will work even more quickly to lower resting BPM. Just don’t overdo it. Start slow with smaller periods of time at first - just 10 or 15 minutes workouts, and then work your way up. You can do this, and you will feel great!!

2. Lower Stress. Do yoga or go to the beach, or anything healthy that relieves stress. Stress and anger can cause resting BPM to increase gradually. You will notice on your resting BPM history (usually in your smart watch app) a spike when you are going through a stressful time like losing a loved one, stress at work, or losing a job. Lowering BPM involves lowering the stress. Get away if you need to; take a vacation or just take a walk. Do whatever you can do in your situation to lower stress and resting BPM, because, as you will see shortly; this could save your life.

3. Avoid sugar and caffeine. Avoid foods and substances that can lower heart health and increase resting BPM like sugary drinks, energy drinks or too much coffee. Drinking two or more sugary drinks per day increases your risk of dying early by 21%. This includes juice, soda, sugary coffee…any sugary drink.

4. Don’t smoke or drink alcohol. These substances contain toxins and lower heart health. If you do drink, be sure to keep it under control. Don’t drink anything every day. Make sure it’s a celebration of a happy life and not something you are dependent upon for well-being.

5. Stick to a healthy eating plan and drink tea. Stay hydrated by drinking water first thing in the morning and throughout the day.  It’s harder for your body to circulate blood when you are dehydrated, so your heart has to beat faster. Make sure you are taking omega 3 fatty acids (a high quality fish oil), and take magnesium. Deficiencies in these nutrients are linked to high resting BPM. It can be easy to be deficient, especially with magnesium, because things we do every day will deplete it, like drinking coffee, sweating, stressing out, and drinking water. Also, drink Green Tea or take the supplement. Green Tea has been shown to lower resting BPM through the detoxing polyphenols. It’s also a natural source of a lower amount of caffeine, rather than drinking too much coffee. 

Getting fit and staying fit is a worthy goal. It takes determination to achieve it, but you will be able to enjoy the many benefits for a long time.  Being fit with a low resting BPM helps extend your life. It also helps you feel good about achieving your goal, helps you to have better energy, better memory, a stronger heart, and a better mood. These are all wonderful benefits that are well worth the time it takes to make a few positive lifestyle changes toward a lower resting BPM. The very best benefit is feeling more at ease because you have lowered your risk associated with stroke and heart attack. Knowing that you are taking good care of yourself is an important part of optimal wellness. Keeping a low resting BPM is a great way to take care of yourself.