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What is a healthy resting heart rate by age?

In partnership with Dr Hamish Black

Resting heart rate and why you should know what it means

A man in a gray shirt checking his heart rate while outside in the park going for a run
A man in a gray shirt checking his heart rate while outside in the park going for a run

If you’ve ever had your heart rate measured by your GP or at hospital, you may have stared at the number on the screen without understanding what it meant or how your resting heart rate compared with people of a similar age and activity level.

At nib, we consider ourselves your health partner, talking to the experts to get the guidance, tips and tricks to help you live your healthiest life.

So, in an effort to demystify what a healthy resting heart rate by age looks like, we spoke to nib Medical Advisor Dr Hamish Black.

Heart rate health

How to take your heart rate

“You can take your heart rate by palpating your pulse or by using a smartwatch or an app on your smartphone,” says Hamish.

To take your resting heart rate manually, follow these steps:

  • Rest for five minutes

  • With your palm facing up, feel for your pulse on your wrist underneath your thumb

  • Count how many times you feel a beat within 30 seconds

  • Double that number to find your resting heart rate in beats per minute (bpm)

If you can’t find your pulse at your wrist, place two fingers on the side of your neck next to your windpipe.

Is resting heart rate different by age?

Normal resting heart rate varies throughout our lifetime and depending on our activity levels. Athletes and people with high fitness levels generally have lower resting heart rates than less active people.

Two women, after practising a yoga class, comparing their heart rates on a phone app

What is a normal resting heart rate by age?

“The normal newborn heart rate is 100 to 160 bpm,” says Hamish. “That gradually decreases to between 60 and 80 bpm as a teenager and an adult. Although most people will have episodes of resting heart rate below 60 and athletes will often sit in the 40s.”

At what heart rate should you go to hospital?

“The main reason to go to hospital is when you have a racing or slow heart associated with either pain, shortness of breath or light-headedness,” says Hamish. “If the heart is racing, it’s a good idea to go to a clinic or hospital where a tracing of the heart’s electrical activity – or ECG – can be performed. This can help make a diagnosis and guide any further investigations and treatment.”

What factors influence heart rate?

Several factors influence resting heart rate, including:

  • Age: Your heart rate can change as you get older (which can sometimes be a sign of a heart problem).

  • Sex: Women generally have higher resting heart rates than men.

  • Weight: Being overweight can cause a high heart rate.

  • Temperature: High temperatures require the heart to beat faster.

  • Dehydration: Being dehydrated can force the heart to beat faster to eliminate toxins from the bloodstream.

  • Time of day: Heart rate is generally lower at night.

  • Body position: Heart rate tends to be lower when we’re lying down than when we’re standing up.

  • Stress and excitement: Certain emotions can make the heart beat faster.

  • Exercise: Heart rate increases during physical activity.

  • Fitness level: Athletes generally have lower resting heart rates than people who are more sedentary.

  • Medication: Medications such as beta blockers can decrease your resting heart rate and others like thyroid medications can increase it.

  • Substance use: Cigarettes, caffeine and alcohol can all increase heart rate.

Please note: The tips throughout this article serve as broad information and should not replace any advice you have been given by your medical practitioner. 

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black

In partnership with

Dr Hamish Black

Dr Hamish Black has been a medical practitioner for more than 25 years. In addition to his role as nib group medical advisor, he still spends two days a week practising as a GP. He has spent many years working in emergency departments and in rural Australia, including a stint with the Royal Flying Doctor Service. Hamish also loves karaoke and dancing (though not that well at either, he says!), with Play that Funky Music by Wild Cherry being his karaoke favourite.