Illustration of anatomical heart against a blue background to represent resting heart rate

A Guide to Resting Heart Rate by Age and Gender

Medically reviewed on Feb 25, 2024 by Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT. To give you technically accurate, evidence-based information, content published on the Everlywell blog is reviewed by credentialed professionals with expertise in medical and bioscience fields.

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The heart, a vital organ in the intricate symphony of the human body, serves as the maestro, orchestrating the rhythmic flow and delivery of blood and nutrients throughout the body. [1]

Your heart rate—measured in beats per minute—acts as the tempo. And whether it’s within normal range or not can hint toward your greater health and wellness. [1]

In this guide, we’re exploring resting heart rate by age and gender in-depth and how factors like physical fitness level, health status, and hormones might play a role in its function.

Understanding Your Heart Rate

The beating of your heart, like breathing, is an unconscious process, controlled by your environment and two branches of the autonomic nervous system [1, 2]:

  • Sympathetic nervous system – Releases hormones like epinephrine and norepinephrine to increase your heart rate. Your heart rate may often increase during exercise or when you’re feeling excited or scared.
  • Parasympathetic nervous system – Releases the hormone acetylcholine to slow the heart rate. Your heart rate may decrease when resting, sleeping, or feeling calm.

Your resting heart rate refers to the number of heartbeats per minute when your body is at rest, typically measured in a calm, relaxed, and awakened state. [2, 3]

By finding your pulse (by placing your finger on the radial artery on the wrist, the carotid artery in the neck, or the brachial artery inside your elbow), you can count your heartbeats per minute with every palpitation to assess your overall health, whether you’re exercising or sitting down. Essentially, you’re feeling blood rush through the arteries with every heart pump. [3]

A healthcare provider may also be able to assess your heart rate in areas like the [3]:

  • Chest, just above your heart
  • Temporal region, near your ear canal
  • Stomach
  • Femoral artery, in the thigh
  • Behind the knee
  • On the feet

To easily measure your heart rate, you’ll need to use a bit of math:

  1. Count the number of heartbeats for 10 seconds, then multiply the number by six.
  2. Count the number of heartbeats for six seconds, then multiply that number by 10.
  3. Count the number of heartbeats for 30 seconds, then multiply that number by two.

Your final product is your beats per minute. For example, if you implement the first strategy and count 12 heartbeats, you’d multiply 12 by six to get 72; your heart rate is then 72 beats per minute.

That said, you may wonder what’s a normal resting heart rate? Generally, there is no “normal” heart rate; healthy heart rates can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute in adults at rest. That said, there is a noticeable difference between biological genders [4]:

  • Women and people assigned female at birth – On average, the typical adult female’s heart beats 78 to 82 times per minute.
  • Men and people assigned male at birth – The average male heart, on the other hand, typically beats around 70 to 72 beats per minute.

Why is this? Generally, female hearts are smaller than male hearts, which means they must beat faster to pump adequate blood levels throughout the body. [4]

Resting Heart Rate: the Numbers by Age

The younger the person, the smaller the heart. Thus, the higher the heart rate. For children, the “normal” ranges for resting heart rates are as follows [3]:

  • Newborns (birth to four weeks): 100 to 205 beats per minute
  • Infants (four weeks to one year): 100 to 180 beats per minute
  • Toddlers (one to three years): 98 to 140 beats per minute
  • Preschoolers (three to five years): 80 to 120 beats per minute
  • School-age (five to 12 years): 75 to 118 beats per minute
  • Adolescents (13 to 18 years): 60 to 100 beats per minute

Adults, no matter their age, usually range between 60 to 100 beats per minute as well. [3] That said, adults with a high physical fitness level are more likely to have a lower resting heart rate, often ranging from 40 to 60 beats per minute. [3]

To enhance your cardiovascular health and mitigate potential risks, understanding how to improve resting heart rate is crucial. An elevated resting heart rate beyond your age-related range may indicate an increased risk of developing cardiovascular problems and premature cardiovascular mortality. One study found this can occur at a resting heart rate of over 80 beats per minute. [5]

Alternatively, a person with a lower-than-average resting heart rate than their age group may also have an underlying medical condition. It’s recommended to speak to a healthcare provider if you are beginning to worry about an irregular heartbeat. [5]

Factors That Impact Your Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is intricately influenced by a range of physiological and environmental factors. These include:

  • Physical health – An accumulation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, commonly referred to as unhealthy or "bad" cholesterol, poses a risk by clogging arteries and compromising the effectiveness of the cardiovascular system. This buildup can lead to atherosclerosis, a condition characterized by the narrowing and hardening of arteries. As the heart tries to pump blood through constricted vessels, the resistance increases, potentially causing an elevation in resting heart rate. [6]
  • Fitness level – Regular exercise is essential to maintain your overall heart health. One study, which analyzed participants over five years, found that even making small changes, such as increasing your standing times, walking and/or running consistently, and using the stairs can strengthen your heart and reduce your resting heart rate. Specifically, standing for 15 hours, compared to five, reduced participants’ average heart rates by 10 beats per minute. [7]
  • Hormonal changes – In women and people assigned female at birth, it’s common for their heart rates to fluctuate throughout their menstrual cycles. During the luteal phase and ovulation, when a mature egg drops into a fallopian tube, the average heart rate slightly increases. Alternatively, the resting heart rate was found to decrease during the follicular phase and menstruation. [8] Additionally, as previously explored, feeling excited or scared can trigger the production of hormones that increase your heart rate, while feeling calm can release hormones that slow your heart rate. [1, 2]
  • Mental health – Psychological factors, such as stress and anxiety, can significantly influence the autonomic nervous system, specifically activating the sympathetic branch. This activation triggers the well-known "fight or flight" response, a physiological reaction aimed at preparing the body to cope with perceived threats. In the context of stress and anxiety, the sympathetic nervous system prompts the release of stress hormones like cortisol and adrenaline, leading to an increase in heart rate. That said, this elevation in heart rate is not limited to situations of heightened physical activity; it can continue even during periods of rest if your nervous system is dysregulated. [9]
  • Medications – In some cases, certain medications can significantly impact resting heart rate, like stimulants and beta-blockers. Stimulants, like those used for attention disorders or as decongestants, tend to increase heart rate as part of their physiological effects. [10] On the other hand, beta-blockers, commonly prescribed for conditions such as hypertension or heart-related issues, work to reduce heart rate and blood pressure. [11]

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How Do Your Target and Maximum Heart Rates Compare?

During vigorous exercise, it is entirely normal for your heart rate to rise. This is a physiological response as your heart works diligently to supply oxygen and nutrients to meet the increased demands of your active body. [12]

Maximum heart rate is the highest number of heartbeats per minute that an individual should achieve during maximal physical exertion. To calculate this number, simply subtract your age from 220. For example, someone who is 25 should raise their heart rate to no more than 195 beats per minute during high-intensity exercise. [12] Accordingly, the chart is as follows for adults:

  • 20 years old: 200 beats per minute
  • 30 years old: 190 beats per minute
  • 40 years old: 180 beats per minute
  • 50 years old: 170 beats per minute
  • 60 years old: 160 beats per minute
  • 70 years old: 150 beats per minute

Alternatively, your target heart rate refers to a specific range, based on age, that indicates optimal cardiovascular intensity while working out—without a danger of overexertion. [12] These ranges should be anywhere from 50% to 85% of your maximum heart rate [12]:

  • 20 years old: 100 to 170 beats per minute
  • 30 years old: 95 to 162 beats per minute
  • 40 years old: 90 to 153 beats per minute
  • 50 years old: 85 to 145 beats per minute
  • 60 years old: 80 to 136 beats per minute
  • 70 years old: 75 to 128 beats per minute

Stay on Top of Your Fitness With Everlywell

The primary determinants of a healthy heart rate are age, health, and gender. When considering your health and fitness, understanding the interplay between age and gender in determining a healthy heart rate is crucial.

To help you along your journey to better understanding or learning how to improve your heart health, there’s Everlywell.

We provide a variety of at-home tests to monitor your health, including the at-home Heart Health Test to assess critical markers such as total cholesterol, high-density lipoprotein (HDL), calculated LDL, triglycerides, and hemoglobin A1c (HbA1c). Plus, when you make an appointment through an Everlywell virtual care visit, we’ll pair you with a licensed healthcare provider who can help guide you through lifestyle changes that can improve your heart health and overall wellness.

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  1. Shmerling RH MD. How’s your heart rate and why it matters? Harvard Health. Published March 25, 2020. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  2. Professional CCM. Autonomic nervous system. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed June 15, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  3. Professional CCM. Pulse & Heart Rate. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed June 15, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  4. Prabhavathi K, Kt S, Kn P, Sarvanan A. Role of Biological Sex in Normal Cardiac Function and in its Disease Outcome – A Review. Journal of Clinical and Diagnostic Research. Published online January 1, 2014. doi:10.7860/jcdr/2014/9635.4771. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  5. Zhang D, Shen X, Qi X. Resting heart rate and all-cause and cardiovascular mortality in the general population: a meta-analysis. Canadian Medical Association Journal. 2015;188(3):E53-E63. doi:10.1503/cmaj.150535. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  6. 8 things that can affect your heart – and what to do about them. Published January 24, 2023. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  7. Alexander J, Sovakova M, Rena G. Factors affecting resting heart rate in free-living healthy humans. Digital Health. 2022;8:205520762211290. doi:10.1177/20552076221129075. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  8. Professional CCM. Women and heart rate. Cleveland Clinic. Last reviewed July 28, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  9. Chronic stress puts your health at risk. Mayo Clinic. Published August 1, 2023. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  10. Corliss J. How stimulants may affect your heart. Harvard Health. Published February 1, 2022. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  11. Beta blockers. Mayo Clinic. Published August 22, 2023. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.
  12. Hipp D. Normal resting heart Rate by Age (Chart). Forbes Health. Published January 12, 2024. Medical Citation URL. Accessed February 1, 2024.

Jordan Stachel, M.S., RDN, CPT is most fulfilled when guiding others towards making stepwise, sustainable changes that add up to big results over time. Jordan works with a wide variety of individuals, ranging in age from children to the elderly, with an assortment of concerns and clinical conditions, and has written for publications such as Innerbody. She helps individuals optimize overall health and/or manage disease states using personalized medical nutrition therapy techniques.
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