Resting heart rate is the number of times the heart beats in one minute when the body is at complete, uninterrupted rest. It is usually taken when first waking up in the morning, before raising or lifting the head from the pillow.

As explained earlier in this module, aerobic conditioning of any kind strengthens the cardiovascular system and makes it more efficient. One easily observed result of such conditioning is a lower resting heart rate. But this cardiac adaptation is reversible. That is, a loss in conditioning or fitness typically results in a reciprocal increase in resting heart rate.

Before you do this lesson in class, have students complete the Resting Heart Rate worksheet by taking their pulse manually at home for five mornings before they get out of bed. Explain that they will be trying to get a comparison reading using a heart rate monitor, and review the errors that can occur when using the palpation method (e.g., counting, math). In addition, the situation in class (e.g., uncomfortable floor, interruptions, peers watching) can also cause inaccurate readings. Explain to students that understanding the data is more important than getting a “true” resting heart rate.

Outcome

Students will demonstrate proficiency at noting variations in their heart rates during inactivity.

Materials

  • Completed Resting Heart Rate worksheets
  • One heart rate monitor per student

Activity

  1. Students put on their monitors, get heart rates, and record their ambient heart rates.
  2. Review students resting heart rates from the worksheet and ask what they learned about taking their pulse. Discuss variables on each day.did they remember to take their heart rate each day at first waking? Did it vary from day to day?
  3. Explain the following facts about resting heart rate and some reasons for a high or low resting heart rate:
    • The average is between 60 and 80 beats per minute (bpm) (85 percent of the population falls in this range).
    • Heredity plays a part in a person’s resting heart rate.
    • With fitness training, it is possible to lower the resting heart rate. Some athletes, for example, measure in the 40s.
    • Other factors that influence resting heart rate are stress, illness, and medication.
  4. Students record their ambient heart rates in sitting positions.
  5. Students lie down and get comfortable. (The area should be dark and quiet, if possible. You may also want to try some relaxation techniques such as soft music or deep breathing.) Tell them you want them to try to consciously lower their heart rates, getting them as low as possible.
  6. Students take readings after two and four minutes of relaxation.
  7. They compare their readings in class today with their manual readings from home. Discuss some of the variables that could account for the differences.