Your resting heart rate predicts your fitness level

    The study It is covered in this summary and published in as a preliminary draft and has not yet been peer-reviewed.

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    • The inverse relationship between resting heart rate and maximal oxygen consumption is directly related to physical fitness and obesity.

    • Resting heart rate is a vital indicator of fitness, and therefore an indicator of heart and respiratory health.

    Why is this important

    • An increase in resting heart rate has been linked to increased mortality from chronic diseases, such as type 2 diabetes and cancer.

    • Resting heart rate can be used as a low-cost, noninvasive method for assessing cardiovascular disease risk and the effectiveness of physical activity-related interventions.

    study design

    • The population-based study group consisted of 5,722 women and 5,143 men, ranging in age from 29 to 65 years.

    • Resting heart rate and fitness were assessed at baseline and median 6 years thereafter.

    • Resting heart rate was measured using two standard electrodes while the patient was sitting, lying down and sleeping.

    • A sensor worn for 6 days and nights was used to monitor heart rate during sleep.

    • To measure fitness, participants walked, walked up a slope, and ran on a treadmill.

    • Physical activity was measured over a 6-day period using a heart rate and motion sensor, and this data was linked to data collected from treadmill exercise.

    • Other parameters evaluated, along with their potential effect, included body mass index, alcohol consumption, smoking status, ethnicity, and body composition (assessed using dual-energy X-ray absorptiometry).

    Main results

    • The average resting heart rate while sitting was 67 bpm, while weak it was 64 bpm, and while sleeping it was 57 bpm.

    • An increase in heart rate in the supine position of 1 beats per minute was associated with a decrease in the level of fitness of 0.23 ml/min per kg.


    • Fitness was extrapolated from the heart rate response to submaximal exercise rather than a direct measurement of maximal oxygen consumption.

    • Participants taking beta-blockers were excluded from the study because the estimated fitness of the heart rate response to submaximal exercise is considered unreliable in these subjects.

    • Because the study did not include children or adolescents, the researchers are unable to report the relationship between resting heart rate and cardiorespiratory health in this age group.


    • The authors were supported by the UK Medical Research Council.

    • No author has declared conflicts of interest or financial support from any organization that has an interest in their work submitted in the past three years.

    This is a summary of a preprint research study, Resting Heart Rate is a Biomarker of Cardiorespiratory Fitness: The Fenland Study, written by Thomas Gonzalez and colleagues from the University of Cambridge, UK, and published on SSRN, brought to you by Medscape. This study has not been subject to peer review. The full text of the study can be found at

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