Many people believe that the main aim of regular exercise or physical activity is weight loss. As a result, many individuals try to cut corners to lose weight without partaking in regular physical activity. Clinical evidence has suggested (for many years) that lower resting heart rates result of regular physical activity and exercise. However, scientific research has identified and displayed the strong correlation between your resting heart rate and the likelihood of many diseases including heart disease and diabetes. Therefore, it gives credence to the fact that the main focus of regular exercise is to improve fitness which subsequently can protect the body from diseases that weight loss alone cannot achieve.
Defining Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate refers to the number of heartbeats per minute, while at rest.
In general, resting heart rate for adults varies between 60 and 100 beats per minute. It’s generally accepted that a lower resting heart rate is a sign of improved fitness levels, elite athletes can often display resting heart rate in the 40s.
Measuring Resting Heart Rate
It’s difficult to obtain an accurate resting heart rate without professional equipment. You can simply count how many beats per minute by using your pulse on your wrist or neck. A true resting heart rate occurs while we sleep which can be measured using continuous monitoring devices such as a Fitbit. Most automatic blood pressure cuffs also give a heart rate measurement so you can also ask your healthcare professional what your reading is the next time you get checked.
Resting Heart Rate & Fitness
Although widely accepted that lower resting heart rates are an indication of improved fitness level, the exact mechanism and pathway are not well known. Put simply, the heart is a muscle that automatically works to contract and propel blood around the body. At rest, we all have a minimum amount of oxygen and nutrients (via the blood) that our body needs to stay alive and the heart works to provide that in an efficient manner. If your heart is strong enough to supply that basic, minimum level in fewer beats it’s reasonable to conclude that the heart muscles are able to propel the blood further in each beat which indicates improved fitness.
There are also other factors at work such as the peripheral tissues becoming more efficient at accepting oxygen and nutrients from the blood which also helps to reduce the amount of work the heart needs to put in.
Although weight loss can reduce resting heart rate by reducing the amount of cells that need blood supply, weight loss alone does not generate sufficient stress to cause an improvement in fitness/heart strength.