Highly active people, particularly endurance athletes, often have lower resting heart rates than others, below 60 beats per minute. This is because aerobic exercise strengthens the heart, allowing it to pump blood more efficiently.

RHR is the measure of how many times a person’s heart beats per minute when they are relaxed and sitting or lying down. According to the American Heart Association, a typical resting heart rate (RHR) ranges from 60–100 beats per minute (bpm).

Athletes typically have lower RHRs. While there is no “ideal” RHR, a 2018 research review showed an association between lower RHRs and better health.

Read on to learn about typical RHRs for athletes, how a low RHR affects health, athletic heart syndrome, and more.

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Aerobic exercise strengthens the heart muscle, allowing it to pump more blood with each beat. This results in a lower RHR. As a person exercises more and becomes fitter, their RHR will likely decrease.

According to the same 2018 research review above, involving nearly 200 studies, all types of sports can cause decreased RHR. Endurance exercise — such as running and cycling — and yoga significantly reduced RHR in both males and females.

Certain groups of athletes may have particularly low RHRs. A 2018 study involving competitive collegiate athletes showed that male and Black individuals had lower RHRs than female and white individuals. The study authors noted that while this was a small difference, it was statistically significant.

There is no one ideal RHR. Heart rates vary from person to person, and while lower resting heart rates generally mean a person is more fit, it may be more useful to compare one’s own RHR over time.

The typical RHR for adults is usually between 60–100 bpm. However, it is important to note that these figures depict heart rate measurements taken in clinics, so they may not represent heart rates in general.

RHRs can vary significantly — for instance, some people tend to have elevated heart rates in doctor’s offices because the setting makes them feel nervous.

A variety of other factors can also influence heart rate. They include:

  • Body size: Obesity can cause a person to have a higher RHR.
  • Body position: Heart rate is generally slightly higher when standing, especially right after standing up.
  • Temperature: Warm temperatures can slightly increase heart rate.
  • Medications: Some medications, such as beta-blockers, can lower heart rate. Others, like thyroid medications, can increase it.

Generally, lower RHR links with better health. A 2017 research review showed that a RHR increase of 10 bpm raises the risk of all causes of death by 17%.

Learn how to check your resting heart rate at home.

A low resting heart rate, also called bradycardia, can be a symptom of certain health conditions. However, in athletes, it is typically not worrying.

A low RHR usually does not cause health concerns. If a person is an athlete or does a significant amount of exercise, they will typically have a lower RHR. This just means their heart is more efficient at pumping blood around the body and does not need to beat as fast.

A lower than average RHR is not a cause for concern unless it causes other symptoms. For example, if a person feels light-headed, dizzy, or weak, they may want to contact a doctor.

Athletic heart syndrome is a relatively noncancerous condition affecting people who exercise regularly. It describes changes in the heart due to continuous strenuous physical activity.

Exercise can cause a variety of changes in the heart, often called sport-specific cardiac remodeling, including increases in:

  • heart muscle size
  • heart capacity
  • blood output

These changes are not necessarily a bad thing. They are merely physiological changes that occur because of repeated stimulus, and they allow athletes to perform their sport at a high level.

While athletic heart syndrome is relatively rare, there is usually no need to diagnose it because it typically causes no symptoms. However, if an athlete experiences cardiac symptoms, a doctor can rule out other heart conditions like:

  • Hypertrophic cardiomyopathy: In this condition, the heart muscle becomes unusually thick.
  • Left ventricular noncompaction: This rare condition, usually present from birth, happens when the left chamber of the heart does not develop properly and cannot pump enough blood.
  • Arrhythmogenic right ventricular dysplasia: This happens when muscle in the right chamber of the heart dies, causing arrhythmia, or irregular heart rhythm.

If a person is an athlete and has a low RHR, there is no reason to contact a doctor. However, if they experience any of the following symptoms, it is a good idea for them to contact a doctor:

  • weakness
  • dizziness
  • episodes of fainting

Additionally, if a person takes a beta-blocker, their doctor may advise keeping a log of their heart rate. If there are any significant changes, it is important for them to contact a doctor.

Resting heart rate is the measure of a person’s heart rate while relaxed and sitting or lying down. Although the average RHR is usually 60–100 bpm, there is no one “ideal” heart rate.

People who exercise regularly, especially endurance athletes, tend to have lower RHRs than others. Consistent strenuous exercise strengthens the heart muscle, allowing it to pump blood more efficiently, reducing heart rate.

Usually, a low RHR is not a cause for concern. However, if a person experiences symptoms such as episodes of fainting, dizziness, or weakness, it can help if they contact a doctor.