How gender, fitness, sleep and weight affect your resting heart rate

Jawbone's data shows the factors involved in having a lower or higher resting bpm

We are well versed by now in what sort of resting heart rate we should be aiming for - less than 60 beats per minute for athletes, more than 100 and things are looking worrying.

But with plenty of wearables out there tracking resting heart rate, from the Apple Watch to the Jawbone UP3 and the Fitbit Charge HR, we also have all this data about our own hearts. Jawbone has been looking into what factors are involved in maintaining a low resting heart rate, the sign of a healthier, more efficient heart, and has found some interesting correlations.

Jawbone has used the anonymised data of tens of thousands of UP3 users who have been tracking their steps, sleep and resting rates with the fitness band over the past two months. The graphs below, which were put together by Harini Sureshi, a senior at MIT and intern on Jawbone's data science team, look at things like gender and weight as well as more day-to-day changes such as what time users go to bed.

The company has a full account of how it analysed the data over on the Jawbone blog.

What makes a healthy heart?

Let's start with the basics. The first graph won't surprise many people - Jawbone users with lower BMIs (as manually inputted into the app) have lower resting heart rates.

Users in a healthy weight range had resting rates of around 58 - 62 bpm a minute which rose to 62 to 66 for obese users. That's still well within the healthy range of 50 - 70 bpm. Plus men have a resting heart rate that's on average 3.5 bpm lower than women.

Jawbone's second finding was that more active users have lower resting heart rates - not shocking but sure to make anyone who clocks 10,000 steps a day feel nice and smug. If you're a man who only manages 3,000 steps a day your resting rate is almost 4 bpm higher than a man walking 13,000 steps a day.

Read this: From couch to 10K with wearable tech - Sophie's Diary returns

And if you're trying to work out which activity is best for your heart, Jawbone's data suggests it is running and cycling.

Users whose top-logged workout is running or biking and who did this activity more than 40% of the time have a resting heart rate of 59 bpm, lower than users who lift weights, cross-train, use ellipticals and go walking. Highest (of course) was those who don't log any workouts with an average resting heart rate of 62.7 bpm, again that's 3.7 bpm.

Staying up late

Jawbone isn't just logging our long term lifestyle changes, it can really nose around in our day-to-day habits too. The data science team has looked at things like how much coffee users say they have drank and how much sleep they get but the biggest factor in altering resting heart rate isn't the amount of sleep you get but when you get it.

Read this: 10,000 steps to failure - how to set fitness goals and stick to them

The graph shows the difference in bedtime, compared to their usual time, for men aged 20 - 35. So if we go to bed later than our normal bedtime, our resting heart rate spikes the next morning - particularly at the weekend. If we go to bed earlier, say on a Monday night, it decreases. The differences aren't as pronounced as the other graphs - a 0.75 bpm difference being the top end - but remember this is over the course of a week.

Jawbone has suggested that at the weekend there's a higher chance that users are drinking caffeine and alcohol so this could play a part.

In any case, if you want a lower resting heart rate, get to bed on time, go running and cycling, reach your step goal, lose some weight and er, be a man.

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