What Is an Average Heart Rate?

For most adults, heart rate ranges between 60 and 100 beats per minute while resting.

A woman checks her pulse

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Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats each minute. The average heart rate changes depending on whether you are resting or doing activity.

Typically, an adult’s heart rate can range anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute while resting. Average heart rate while exercising varies greatly and depends on a number of factors like sex and age.

To keep your heart healthy, you’ll want to figure out where your heart rate should be within those ranges.  

What Is Heart Rate?

Your heart is a muscle that’s constantly working to keep you alive and healthy. The heart pumps blood throughout the body, which delivers oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and removes waste.

That blood is pumped with each heartbeat. An electrical system in your heart, as well as your endocrine hormones, control your heartbeat.

The electrical signal that triggers your heartbeat begins in a collection of cells called the sino-atrial node, which is located in one of your heart’s chambers. The sino-atrial node is often referred to as the heart’s pacemaker because it controls your heart rate.

Your heart rate is the rate at which your heart beats in a certain period of time, usually one minute.

Your heart rate is an indicator of your overall health and fitness level. If your heart rate is too fast or slow, it can be a sign that something’s not quite right with your heart or that something else is going on with your body.

Knowing your heart rate during activity can also help you to maximize your workouts.

How to Measure Your Heart Rate

An easy way to measure your heart rate at home is to use your fingers to take your pulse. You can feel your pulse anywhere on your body where an artery is close to the skin. That means you can feel your pulse at the:

  • Wrist
  • Side of the neck
  • Back of the knees
  • Inside of the elbow
  • Top of the foot
  • Groin

Measuring your heart rate at your wrist or the side of the neck is likely the easiest.  

One way to measure your heart rate is to:

  1. Place your index and middle finger over your radial artery, which is right below the base of your thumb on the side of your wrist. You can also do this at the side of your neck.
  2. When you feel your pulse, use a clock or timer to keep track of time while you count the number of times your heart beats over 30 seconds.
  3. Once 30 seconds is up, multiply the number of beats you counted by two to get your heart rate.  

There are other ways to check your heart rate. Wearable technology like Fitbits and Apple watches can be used to monitor your heart rate at rest and while exercising. If you use an at-home blood pressure monitor, those may also track your heart rate.

A healthcare provider may use a pulse oximeter to measure your heart rate. A pulse oximeter is a device that’s placed on your fingertip that measures your heart rate and the oxygen saturation of the blood.

What Is a Normal Resting Heart Rate?

Your resting heart rate is your heart rate when you’ve been sitting or lying down for at least 10 minutes.

A normal resting heart rate for most adults should lie between 60 to 100 beats per minute.

However, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends aiming for a resting heart rate on the lower end of this range, as a lower heart rate is generally associated with better physical fitness and a healthier heart.

Editor’s Note: The following factors can affect your resting heart rate:

  • Stress
  • Anxiety
  • Hormones
  • Medication
  • How physically active you are 

Although the AHA doesn’t have different resting heart rate recommendations for men and women, some research indicates that women tend to have a heart rate that’s an average of 4.4 beats per minute higher than men. This is because women are generally smaller and pump less blood during each contraction of the heart.

One review showed that an average resting adult male heart rate is between 70 and 72 beats per minute, while an average resting adult female heart rate is slightly higher, lying between 78 and 82 beats per minute.

People who are very fit, like athletes, may have a lower than average resting heart rate—between 40 to 60 beats per minute.

Children 10 or older have the same resting heart rate range as adults. But children younger than 10 tend to have a higher resting heart rate range:

Age  Beats Per Minute
Newborn  70-190
1 month-11 months  80-160
1-2 years  80-130
3-4 years  80-120
5-6 years  75-115
7-9 years  70-110

Target Heart Rates During Exercise

When you’re active, your heart has to work harder compared to when you’re resting. This means your heart rate speeds up to get more oxygen to your muscles.

A target heart rate is a recommended zone for how fast your heart should be beating during exercise. Staying within this zone when exercising can help you get the most out of your workout and improve heart health while staying safe.

Target heart rates are determined using something called maximum heart rate, which is the fastest your heart can beat at maximum exertion.

Sex and age determine your maximum heart rate and target heart rates. But it is a formula with age alone that is widely used to measure maximum heart rate. To find out your maximum hear rate, subtract your age from 220. During moderate activity, your target heart should be about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. If you’re exercising vigorously, your target heart rate should be about 70-85% of your maximum heart rate.

Here are the target heart rate recommendations from the AHA:

Age Target Heart Rate Zone, 50-85% Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%
20 years 100-170 beats per minute (bpm) 200 bpm
30 years 95-162 bpm 190 bpm
35 years 93-157 bpm 185 bpm
40 years 90-153 bpm 180 bpm
45 years 88-149 bpm 175 bpm
50 years  85-145 bpm 170 bpm
55 years 83-140 bpm 165 bpm
60 years  80-136 bpm 160 bpm
65 years  78-132 bpm 155 bpm
70 years  75-128 bpm 150 bpm

Causes of Abnormal Heart Rate

There are a number of reasons why a person’s heart rate may be higher or lower than normal.

For instance, pregnancy can cause the heart rate to increase by 10-20 beats per minute.

Your resting heart rate might also go over or below the recommended window of 60-100 beats per minute due to certain conditions, medications, or other factors.


Tachycardia is the term used when your heart rate is over 100 beats per minute. The following may cause this elevated heart rate:

  • Irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia), the most common of which is atrial fibrillation, as well as other heart conditions like coronary artery disease and inflammation of the heart (myocarditis)
  • Other medical conditions like anemia, certain tumors, hyperthyroidism, and sepsis
  • Certain medications, including tricyclic antidepressants and the asthma medication albuterol (sold under brand names like Ventolin and Proair)
  • Alcohol and drug withdrawal 
  • Shock (a condition when the body is not getting enough blood flow)
  • Dehydration
  • Excessive caffeine intake


When your heart rate falls below 60 beats per minute, it’s known as bradycardia.

The following may cause bradycardia:

  • Trauma to the chest
  • Medical conditions like hypothyroidism, heart disease, anorexia, Lyme disease, and muscular dystrophy
  • Medications like calcium channel blockers, beta-blockers, and Lanoxin (digoxin)
  • Drugs like cannabis and narcotics 

Is an Abnormal Heart Rate Dangerous?

If you have a heart rate that’s higher or lower than normal, it could be a sign of an underlying condition that requires medical attention.

Even though a low or elevated heart rate isn’t always a cause for concern, if you’re unsure if your heart rate is within a healthy range, you should visit your healthcare provider for a check-up.

If warranted, your primary care physician will refer you to a cardiologist (heart specialist) so that you can undergo further testing to ensure your heart is healthy. 

When to See a Healthcare Provider

If you’ve noticed that your heart rate is consistently higher or lower than normal when you’re at rest, or if you feel that your heart is racing or skipping a beat, you should make an appointment with your healthcare provider.

Some causes of abnormal heart rate, like arrhythmia, may cause damage to your heart if left untreated, so it’s always best to get checked out by a medical provider if you feel that your heart rate isn’t normal.

In some cases, an abnormal heart rate may be a sign of a medical condition that requires immediate medical attention. Never ignore symptoms like:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Pounding in the chest
  • Shortness of breath
  • Alternating fast and slow heart rate
  • Dizziness or fainting

These can be signs of a serious medical condition, like a heart attack.

How to Maintain a Healthy Heart Rate

Some factors, like obesity, smoking, and high blood pressure, increase your risk of developing heart issues like arrhythmias and elevated heart rate.

Fortunately, keeping your heart healthy by managing your weight, staying active, and avoiding certain practices can support your heart health and reduce your risk of conditions that cause abnormal heart rate, like arrhythmias.

Here are a few ways to keep your heart healthy and maintain a healthy heart rate:

  • Follow a heart-healthy diet high in vegetables, fruits, beans, and other nutritious foods.
  • Maintain a recommended body weight.
  • Stay active by fitting in exercise daily.
  • Avoid smoking cigarettes or try to quit if you’re currently smoking.
  • Manage stress.

A Quick Review

Your heart rate is how often your heart beats in a minute. Your heart rate can change throughout the day, depending on how much activity you are doing. For the average adult, heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute while resting. Heart rate gets higher when exercising. 

You can measure your own heart rate at home either with your fingers or a smart device to know what your typical rates are and to help you optimize your workouts.

Although an abnormal heart rate isn’t always a cause for concern, if your resting heart rate is higher than 100 beats per minute or lower than 60 beats per minute, it could indicate an underlying health condition. 

If you’re concerned about your heart rate or feel that your heart isn’t beating normally, it’s best to visit your healthcare provider so that they can rule out potential causes and make sure your heart is healthy. 

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