How Your Heart Rate is Related to Fitness and Longevity

How Your Heart Rate is Related to Fitness and Longevity

The maximum rate the human heart can beat per minute is 220 times per minute, however this can only be reached by a child. The bpm (beats per minute) of adults is known to decrease with age, albeit for reasons that are unknown. The bpm of your heart actually isn’t linked to stamina or fitness. For example, marathon runners are known to peak in their late 30s but their hearts generally have less bpm than an 8-year-old or someone in their early 20s.

You can approximate your maximum heart rate, the maximum bpm of your heart, if you subtract your age by 220. So for example, say you are a 20-year-old. Subtracting 20 from 220 gives 200, the maximum heart bpm for a 20-year-old.

If you are looking at how to maximize your workouts or exercise in general your heart rate can tell you a lot about what might benefit you the most. If you push yourself too hard and your heart rate reaches its age maximum, as discussed above, you will tire out very quickly and have to stop to rest. Some believe that your ideal heart rate should be around 80 percent of your maximum. So if you were like the 20-year-old mentioned above, your target bpm would be roughly (200 x 0.80) 160 bpm.

What this would require for the 20-year-old if they were engaged in quite a heavy workout – such as running at a good, steady pace – she/he would probably try to stay around 160 bpm by slowing down and speeding up as needed.

Usually the scenario above is not particularly normal and people generally opt for workouts that are less intense but just as effective. Usually this equates to exercise that is roughly between 60-70 percent of their age brackets bpm. Whilst others tend to vary their workout intensity on daily basis, moving from swimming or running to walking or aerobics on a daily basis or within the same workout.

It’s important for you to do what works for you but always bear in mind that exercise that don’t reach more than 60 percent of your maximum heart rate for your rage might not be intense enough to be effective in getting your cardiovascular fitness up.

What Your Heart Rate Says About You

Whenever you go to the doctor she/he takes your pulse, but why? The reason for this is that your resting heart rate is a quick, good indicator of your fitness levels. On average resting heart rates are usually about 70 to 75 bpm. Lower resting heart rates are associated with higher levels of aerobic fitness. People who regularly do aerobic exercise have resting heart rates between 50 and 60 bpms. Some professional athletes are known to have resting heart rates as low as the upper 30s whilst in contrast unfit people have resting heart rates of 80 and upwards.

Anybody who has taken up regular aerobic exercise for some time would have notices that your resting heart rate would have declined over time. That is, that your heart is able to pump the same amount of nutrients and oxygen that your body needs with less bpm.

The best time to measure your resting hear rate is in the morning when you have just woken up and are still in bed. Any sort of movement is likely to cause your heart to beat faster, as well as drinking anything containing caffeine or sugar. During sleep your body gets rid of most of the caffeine and other stimulants that might increase your heart rate, therefore taking your pulse in the morning would be the most accurate indicator of your resting heart rate.

Cardiac stress testing is also a good measure of fitness, the test itself is controlled by your heart rate. You start at rest on a treadmill with a bunch of technology rigged on to you, which monitors your heart rate and provides EKG readings. The treadmill will gradually increase in speed and incline, and it stops when your heart rate reaches a rate that is 80 percent of the maximum for your age.

People who don’t really get out much might find themselves doing about 5 minutes on the treadmill, which is essentially just a slow walk. On the other hand, really fit runners will go for 30 minutes on the treadmill. This way the stress test determines your fitness and it can also be used to test abnormalities in your heart.

How Many Beats Do You Get In A Lifetime?

Some researchers are starting to explore the idea that your heart only has a certain number of beats in it before the end of your lifetime. That is, once you reach a certain number of beats your heart can beat no more. This is related to the Hayflick limit, which dictates that the majority of our cells can only divide a certain number of times and no more.

There can be large differences in the bpm of someone’s heart when they are unfit and fit. Essentially this means that when you are fit you can potentially save heartbeats. For example, say you heart rate is about 80 bpm when you are unfit, and about 60 bpm when you are fit. That 20 bpm difference equates to a difference of approximately 10,5 million beats per year. This ends up being around 9 years of heartbeats.

Unfortunately it is impossible to do research into how many beats a heart can beat in a life time, but the idea seems to make some sense. The idea of being able to save your beats now to use them in your retirement doesn’t sound too bad either.

Although we can’t really prove that there are only so many beats in a heart before it gives out, it has been shown that those who get regular aerobic exercise tend to live much longer than those who don’t, as well as experience a host of other benefits such as reduced risk of: cardiovascular disease, hypertension, diabetes, and obesity amongst many others.

So the question really is, how many beats can your heart beat, beat?

If you’re looking for a way to get your heart rate up but don’t think you have the time check out The 7 Minute Workout7 Minute Alternate Workout or our new 7min Summer HIIT Workout.


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4 Comments on "How Your Heart Rate is Related to Fitness and Longevity"

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If our hearts have a predetermined number of beats wouldn’t that mean that by exercising at high intensity we’re also effectively shortening our lives?


I was thinking the same thing Tom.

I think it’s a little counter-intuitive. By exercising at a high intensity for a short time, you gain improvements which lower your resting heart rate,… Read more »
The highest my heart rate has ever been when exercising was somewhere between 200 and 210. This happened due to trying to better my top… Read more »