Exercise and Resting Heart Rate

Exercise and Resting Heart Rate - PrudentWellness.com

If you read my last post, you understand the importance of having a healthy resting heart rate. Now I want to get into exercise and resting heart rate.

I recently read an interesting research article [1] in the Journal of Clinical Medicine. The report systematically reviews the effects of exercise and resting heart rate (RHR). The goal was to examine how different types of exercise effects the RHR. The article is quite long (over 10,000 words), so I will give you a condensed version.

Data on Exercise and Resting Heart Rate

Six databases for the identification of controlled trials were used to conduct the research. These trials dealt with the effects of exercise or sports on the RHR in healthy subjects. The study included any games or activities including aerobic and anaerobic (e.g., high-intensity interval training), endurance (including ball and team sports) or strength training, school sports, yoga, qigong, or tai chi.

Database queries and a thorough screening of 15,992 articles were used initially for the research. After the exclusion of 660 duplicates, 15,332 items remained. The literature search yielded 191 studies meeting the eligibility criteria. Ten of these articles presented the same data as shown in another article and therefore, were excluded. Finally, the meta-analytical syntheses for their effects on the RHR included the data of 181 items. These 181 articles encompassed 215 samples:

  • 121endurance training
  • 43 strength training
  • 15 combined endurance and strength training
  • Five additional school sports
  • 21 yoga
  • Five tai chi
  • Three qigong
  • Two unspecified

All studies came from published articles between 1971 and 2018. Altogether, the research incorporated 12,952 individuals. The sample sizes of these groups ranged from 5 to 1,456 participants. Of the 215 comparisons, 92 included both female and male participants. Sixty-five comparisons only included females and 58 comparisons only included males. Their ages ranged from 6 years old to 81 years old. The exercise sessions lasted an average of 3 times per week for 12 weeks.

This research article concluded that all types of sports/exercising decreased RHR. However, only endurance training and yoga significantly decreased the RHR in both sexes.

Endurance Training

The definition of endurance training is physical training for athletic events requiring prolonged effort, such as running a marathon, swimming a long distance, or climbing mountains [2]. But what is a prolonged effort?

The American Heart Association (AHA) has some recommendations regarding physical activity [3]. They say adults should get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise spread throughout the week. Moderate intensity means your heart will beat faster, and your breathing will be harder. However, you will still be able to talk.

Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic activities include:

  • brisk walking (at least 2.5 miles per hour)
  • water aerobics
  • dancing (ballroom or social)
  • gardening
  • tennis (doubles)
  • biking slower than 10 miles per hour

The AMA goes on to say that 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity will do as well. But what is vigorous intensity? Vigorous-intensity activities will push your body a little further. They will require a higher amount of effort. You will probably get warm and begin to sweat. You will not be able to talk much without getting out of breath.

Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic activities include:

  • hiking uphill or with a heavy backpack
  • running
  • swimming laps
  • aerobic dancing
  • heavy yard work (continuous digging or hoeing)
  • tennis (singles)
  • cycling 10 miles per hour or faster
  • jumping rope

Ratings of Perceived Exertion

Ratings of Perceived Exertion (RPE) emerged in the late 1970s as a subjective method of gauging exercise intensity. It has since gained full acceptance as a method of monitoring exercise intensity. Although entirely subjective, the RPE scale defines the ranges of objective exercise intensity associated with effective exercise training programs.

Ratings of Perceived Exertion - PrudentWellness.com

In other words, a rating of Moderate on the RPE scale is close to 70% of Heart Rate Reserve (HHR). Strong is close to 80% of HHR. Very strong is close to 85% of HHR. Thus, RPE ratings of Moderate to Very strong span the range of recommended exercise training intensities.

The RPE system works well for about 90% of people. Very sedentary individuals often find it challenging to use. They see any level of activity reasonably hard. On the other hand, individuals who have high levels of muscular strength may under-rate the intensity of exercise. They tend to focus on the muscular tension requirement of training rather than on the breathing elements.


Yoga, specifically modern yoga [4], is a mind-body exercise that requires the executioner to be profoundly mentally focused. Self-focus includes specific attention to breathing and proprioception [5]. The calming/meditative states experienced while doing yoga have been known to help:

  • stress-related disorders
  • deterioration of musculoskeletal health
  • balance control
  • hypertension (high blood pressure)
  • depression
  • pain management
  • elevated resting heart rate

However, studies [6, 7, 8] show that yoga alone does not improve heart health. A complete yogic lifestyle is needed to improve heart health.


If you read my last post, The Importance of Having a Healthy Resting Heart Rate, you know your RHR should be in a particular range. Therefore, if you want a healthy resting heart rate, there must be some exercise/training involved. As the research shows, endurance training is the best way to do that. You don’t have to train like an elite athlete. You need to be consistent at a moderate level spread throughout the week. Further, if you add a balanced diet to your lifestyle, your heart health will improve even more.

Until next time, live sensible, be healthy.

[1] Reimers, Anne Kerstin et al. “Effects of Exercise on the Resting Heart Rate: A Systematic Review and Meta-Analysis of Interventional Studies.” Journal of clinical medicine vol. 7,12 503. 1 Dec. 2018, doi:10.3390/jcm7120503 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6306777/ –> BACK <–

[2] “endurance training.” Medical Dictionary for the Health Professions and Nursing. 2012. https://medical-dictionary.thefreedictionary.com/endurance+training –> BACK <–

[3] “American Heart Association Recommendations for Physical Activity in Adults and Kids.” www.heart.org, 2018. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/aha-recs-for-physical-activity-in-adults –> BACK <–

[4] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Modern_yoga –> BACK <–

[5] Proprioception – Sensation and awareness of body position and movements. –> BACK <–

[6] Manchanda, S C, et al. “Retardation of Coronary Atherosclerosis with Yoga Lifestyle Intervention.” The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, U.S. National Library of Medicine, July 2000, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/11273502 –> BACK <–

[7] Ornish, D, et al. “Can Lifestyle Changes Reverse Coronary Heart Disease? The Lifestyle Heart Trial.” Lancet (London, England), U.S. National Library of Medicine, 21 July 1990 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/1973470 –> BACK <–

[8] Yogendra, J, et al. “Beneficial Effects of Yoga Lifestyle on Reversibility of Ischaemic Heart Disease: Caring Heart Project of International Board of Yoga.” The Journal of the Association of Physicians of India, U.S. National Library of Medicine, Apr. 2004 https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15636328 –> BACK <–