Recovery Heart Rate

Heart rate is a subjective measure of functioning of heart and can be defined as “total number of heart beats per minute”. Each heart beat is a combination of cardiac contraction and relaxation. The aim of heart functioning or beating is to deliver fresh and oxygenated blood in the circulation and collect carbon dioxide and other impurities to allow excretion of toxins from the body. All organs of the body are dependent on the flawless functioning of heart for the maintainence of normal daily functions. What is normal and abnormal heart rate? What does recovery heart rate mean?

Normal and Abnormal Heart Rate

Various factors like degree and intensity of physical activity, sleep, various drugs and other bio-physical agents affect the normal functioning of heart (reflected as basal heart rate or heart rate at rest).

Under normal circumstances, the heart rate remains in the safe range of 60-100 beats in one minute. If any disease process decreases the heart rate below 60 beats per minute, the condition is referred to as bradycardia. Likewise, any situation that increases the heart rate beyond 100 beats per minute, the situation is referred to as tachycardia. If the rhythm of cardiac contraction is not regular (characterized by irregular heart beat) the condition is referred to as arrhythmia.

What Is Recovery Heart Rate?

Recovery heart rate signifies the total time taken by the heart to restore its normal activity or functioning after moderate to severe exercise. It is calculated after cessation of activity over a fixed or referenced time-frame (most frequently over a one-minute time period).

A better recovery heart rate (that is marked by early normalization of the heart rate after moderate physical activity or a lower rise in heart rate after exercise) suggests a healthy and well-conditioned heart. A failure to drop heart rate more than 12 beats per minute after exercise cessation reflects a high risk of sudden cardiac death.

Most exercise and athletic training regimens primarily focus on improving the endurance and conditioning of heart. The success of any regimen is marked by a desired recovery heart rate that also gives important information about the rate of dehydration and over-heating of muscles. In individuals who perform strenuous physical activity, sometimes 30 minutes are required for absolute return of heart rate to normal resting levels.

Watch a video to learn what recovery heart rate means and how to measure your recovery heart rate:

How to Calculate Your Recovery Heart Rate

Knowing recovery heart rate is fairly important to decide if you live a healthy or physically active lifestyle. This is also important if you are planning to initiate a particular exercise or physical activity regimen. The concept of recovery heart rate helps in assessing the overall health status and also indicates if the lifestyle or dietary habits require any modification or adjustment. Follow the three steps below to calculate your recovery heart rate.

Step 1: Learn the Target Heart Rate

In order to know your recovery heart rate, the first and foremost step is to know your target heart rate. You will need:

  • A place to perform desired physical activity
  • A stop-watch (most ideally) or a watch with 2-hands
  • Paper and Pencil to record the results

Review the table below to learn your age-based heart rate.

Age (in years)

Desired heart rate during physical activity (beats per minute)

















100 or above


After assessing your age-specific target heart rate, next step is the calculation of your heart rate at rest by placing your index and middle finger on the wrist of opposite hand and feeling for pulsation at the base of thumb. Once you begin to feel pulsations, count the beats in 30 seconds and multiply by two to get your heart rate.

Step 2: Perform Your Physical Activity

The next pivotal step is to initiate a moderate physical activity that can increase your heart rate. This physical activity may involve a brisk walk or quick run up the block. You can also perform a variety of other physical activities like jumping the rope, traditional gym exercises, running on a treadmill or a combination of mild physical activities that can increase your heart rate moderately.

The key here is to monitor your heart rate in order to achieve the desired or targeted heart rate from the chart in step 1. Once you achieve your targeted heart rate, the next step is:

  • Stop exercising
  • Measurement and recording of your heart rate soon after stopping physical activity on a piece of paper
  • Measurement and recording of heart rate just 2 minutes after cessation of physical activity.

Step 3: Calculate the Recovery Heart Rate

The third and final step is to subtract your 2-minute heart rate reading from the heart rate soon after exercise cessation. The bigger the difference, healthier your heart is.

Here are a few inferences:

  • If the difference between the two heart rates is less than 22, your real age of heart is slightly more than your biological age (that calls for lifestyle and dietary modification)
  • If the recovery heart rate difference is in between 22–52 beats per minute; your biological age (or calendar age) is approximately the same as that of your heart age/ real age
  • A recovery heart rate difference of 53–58 beats per minute indicates optimal health, healthier heart and a real age of less than calendar age.
  • If the difference of your immediate post exercise heart rate and heart rate after 2 minutes is in the range of 59–65 beats per minute, your heart is healthier and your real age is moderately less than your biological age.
  • With a difference of more than 66, your heart is very healthy and your physical age is a lot less than your calendar age.