What Is a Normal Pulse Rate?

The speed of your heart beat is a vital sign

The pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats each minute. What is considered a normal pulse rate will vary from person to person. At rest, your pulse can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute. Your pulse increases with exertion, then returns to your resting rate.

A resting pulse rate that is too high or too low could be a sign of a medical problem. For that reason, it is important to know what range is normal for you. Generally, a pulse rate on the lower end indicates that your heart is healthy and does not need to work as hard to pump blood around your body. 

How to Take Your Pulse

One of the first vital signs taken during a visit to the doctor’s office is your pulse. But you can take your pulse yourself at any time. The two most common areas to find it are:

  • Wrist
  • Side of the neck

Place your fingers on the pulse and count the beats for a full minute. You can also use a pulse oximeter to take your pulse, which can be purchased over the counter.

Taking pulse
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Factors That Affect Your Pulse Rate

Almost any activity will increase your pulse rate. Intense physical activity will cause your pulse to increase above 100 beats per minute. During sleep, your pulse can dip below 60 beats per minute. Other situations than can impact pulse rates include:

  • Experiencing emotion
  • Hot or humid temperatures
  • Body size
  • Medications, such as beta blockers or thyroid medications 

Exercise

Lower pulse rates are associated with a higher life expectancy and better cardiovascular health. A stronger heart pumps blood more efficiently throughout the body. Athletes and highly active individuals can have normal pulse rates as low as 40 beats per minute.

Health Conditions

Certain health problems can cause changes in your pulse rate that can be dangerous. Abnormal heart rhythms are called arrhythmias. There are several types, but two manifest as a heart rate that is either too fast or too slow:

  • Bradycardia is a condition where your pulse rate falls below 60 beats per minute and is accompanied by other symptoms, such as shortness of breath, dizziness, or extreme fatigue.
  • Tachycardia is the opposite, where your pulse rate rises above 100 beats per minute, with shortness of breath, chest pain, or dizziness. However, some people never exhibit symptoms and are diagnosed during a physical. There are several subtypes of tachycardia.

If changes in your pulse rate are ever accompanied by shortness of breath or chest pain, call 911 immediately.

A Word From Verywell

New research is evaluating the impact of heart rate variability on cardiovascular health. Heart variability is the change in time intervals between adjacent heartbeats. A study published in 2020 showed that between individuals, a normal pulse rate can differ by as much as 70 beats per minute. 

A normal pulse rate will be different for each person. Having a pulse rate on the higher or lower end of normal doesn’t always indicate a problem. If your pulse rate is at or over 120 beats per minute, contact your doctor.

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  1. Cleveland Clinic. Pulse and heart rate. Updated November 18, 2018.

  2. Reimers AK, Knapp G, Reimers CD. Effects of exercise on the resting heart rate: A systematic review and meta-analysis of interventional studiesJ Clin Med. 2018;7(12):503. doi:10.3390/jcm7120503

  3. Quer G, Gouda P, Galarnyk M, Topol EJ, Steinhubl SR. Inter- and intraindividual variability in daily resting heart rate and its associations with age, sex, sleep, BMI, and time of year: Retrospective, longitudinal cohort study of 92,457 adultsPLoS One. 2020;15(2):e0227709. doi:10.1371/journal.pone.0227709