from Edward R. Laskowski, M.D.
For an adult, a normal resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute. For a well-trained athlete, a normal resting heart rate may be closer to 40 beats a minute. For healthy adults, a lower heart rate at rest generally implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness.
To measure your heart rate, simply check your pulse. With your palm facing upward, place two fingers on the thumb side of your wrist — or place your index and third fingers on your neck to the side of your windpipe. When you feel your pulse, count the number of beats in 10 seconds. Time yourself with a timer or the second hand on a clock or watch. Multiply this number by 6 to determine how many times your heart beats in one minute.
Keep in mind that many factors can influence heart rate, including:
- Activity level
- Fitness level
- Air temperature
- Body position (standing up or lying down, for example)
- Body size
- Medication use
Although there's a wide range of normal, an unusually high or low heart rate may indicate an underlying problem. Consult your doctor if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats a minute (tachycardia) or below 60 beats a minute (bradycardia) — especially if you have other signs or symptoms, such as fainting, dizziness or shortness of breath.