What Makes a Difference in Heart Rate Recovery Time After a Workout?

Couple jogging in park

Faster heart rate recovery times after a workout indicate you are healthy and fit. You are fully recovered when your heart rate returns to its pre-exercise heart rate, but how quickly your heart rate falls in the first minute after you stop exercising is by far the most important post-workout heart rate measurement. You can improve your recovery heart rate and recovery time by improving your fitness, exercising less intensely and improving your post-workout routine.

Exercise Heart Rates

A healthy heart rate during exercise is 60 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, which is 220 heartbeats per minute minus your age. If your heart rate is lower, you are not exercising intensely enough to improve your cardiovascular fitness. If your heart rate is higher, you “run the risk of placing too great a burden on your heart,” according to “An Invitation to Health.” If you are 35 years old, your exercise heart rate should be 111 to 157 heartbeats per minute. Your exercise heart rate should be 105 to 149 heartbeats per minute if you’re 45, 99 to 140 heartbeats per minute if you’re 55, and 93 to 132 heartbeats per minute if you’re 65.

Recovery Heart Rates

Physically fit people’s heart rate recovery time is faster than less fit people’s recovery time because their cardiovascular systems “are more efficient and adapt more quickly” to vigorous exercise, according to a Federal Aviation Administration report. You can calculate your fitness by taking your pulse during your exercise and one minute after your exercise. Your recovery rate number is the difference between the two heart rates divided by 10. It’s four if your exercise heart rate is 120 and your recovery heart rate is 80. Your physical condition is outstanding if your recovery rate number is above six, excellent if your recovery rate number is between four and six, good if the number is three to four, fair if the number is two to three, and poor if the number is less than two.


You need to consult a doctor if your recovery rate number is 1.2 or lower. A Cleveland Clinic Foundation study that was published in “The New England Journal of Medicine” concluded that people whose heart rate one minute after they exercised was 12 or fewer heartbeats per minute than their exercise heart rate were four times more likely to die within the next six years than people whose post-workout heart rates declined more rapidly.

Exercise Intensity

Your heart rate should decline more slowly after the first post-exercise minute. It should equal your pre-exercise heart rate about 30 minutes after your workout, according to the FAA report. A heart rate above 120 heartbeats per minute five minutes after your workout means you’re exercising too intensely and your next workout should be less intense so your heart rate recovery time improves, exercise expert Kenneth Cooper writes. Improved fitness will shorten your recovery time in the long run, but you shouldn’t try to improve your fitness too rapidly.

Post-Exercise Routine

You can also improve your heart rate recovery time by cooling down properly after your workout. If you stop exercising abruptly, your blood will remain below your waist and not circulate properly to your brain and heart, writes Cooper. Walking slowly for at least five minutes rather than stopping abruptly reduces your risk of heart irregularities, including a heart attack.