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Meaning max heart rate going down?

Archcurl Posts: 206 Member
Hi, my max heart rate during exercise had gone down from 180 in the 2020 summer to 165 now. I was wondering if someone can explain why/how this happens. Does it mean my stamina is better? Does it mean my heart is in better shape?
I'm hoping someone can explain it to me.
I'm 26 F if that matters.


  • Lietchi
    Lietchi Posts: 3,100 Member
    If your heart rate is lower for the same intensity exercise, then yes, a lower heart rate means you are fitter.
  • robertw486
    robertw486 Posts: 2,297 Member
    Also keep in mind that for a weight-bearing exercises your weight impacts the load and energy needed. For example running at a set speed is easier if you are lighter, so your heart rate will go down.

    Or, as is often the case, it's a combination of both things happening if you have been losing weight and exercising.
  • sijomial
    sijomial Posts: 19,073 Member
    There's a difference between max HR (the highest tested maximum you can actually reach) and what I think you mean the highest number you are seeing during exercise.
    For example I saw 176bpm when I did a ramp test to the point of collapse but very rarely get to see over 160 during normal hard exercise.
    Most likely you can still get to 180 if you upped the intensity of your exercise, not that hitting your maximum is actually necessary or beneficial to most people.

    The most likely explanation is that your heart is now pumping more blood with each stroke as you have become fitter. Your heart is a muscle and responds to training. Well done!

    Has your resting HR also fallen?
  • Archcurl
    Archcurl Posts: 206 Member
    robertw486 wrote: »
    Also keep in mind that for a weight-bearing exercises your weight impacts the load and energy needed.

    I notice it most during swimming and my weight has gone up and down so that's not it.
  • Archcurl
    Archcurl Posts: 206 Member
    sijomial wrote: »
    Has your resting HR also fallen?
    My resting HR hasn't really changed. It might be a little lower but not significant.

  • heybales
    heybales Posts: 19,329 Member
    So when you pushed yourself in your swim workout as hard as you could go - you reached 180 last year.
    How in shape were you then, how long had you been doing the swim workouts?

    This year you push yourself as hard as you can go - and you can only reach 165?
    Are you going the same speed as last year?

    I'm going with the fact that some types of workouts are just more difficult to push harder on after you've become more cardio fit.
    The same speed should be lower HR if fitter - so you have to go faster.

    What device are you using to compare?
    Because getting HR readings in the water can have accuracy issues depending on what's being used.
  • AnnPT77
    AnnPT77 Posts: 22,383 Member
    What they said: It's almost one of the definitional aspects of fitness, that the same exercise, over time, will result in a lower heart rate, when done at the same intensity/duration. As heybales said, some workouts have some other limitation, such that we can't push hard enough to increase intensity (such as pace) and reach the former heart high rate that way.

    Along the way, for example, I gave up doing certain low-impact aerobics workouts, because I just couldn't go hard enough doing those moves to get my heart rate where I wanted it for fitness purposes. (I can't switch to high impact aerobics because of joint issues.) Spin classes, more intense rowing machine workouts - those would still get the heart rate as high as ever, because I could increase the intensity when doing those activities. (Rowing, specifically, I got faster at the same HR, and had to go faster yet to get to the old high HR. But I could do it . . . that's an exercise that with adequate technique, pretty much can increase intensity/pace to the limit of strength and endurance. It's not the only exercise where that's true.)

    Statistically, actual HRmax tends to decline with increasing age, but IMU that typically happens more slowly in people who are routinely active. But, as sijomial observed, actual HRmax is a physiological limit (under normal-health conditions, but it can go higher when certain acute health crises are in play). The highest HR that can be achieved doing X exercise at Y intensity, even if Y intensity is the hardest one can do that thing . . . that's not necessarily the same as HRmax.

    Dumb example: I can't possibly walk fast enough to get to my HRmax, but there's a certain high HR I'd see if I were walking the fastest I possibly could (and still be walking). With more fitness, maybe I could walk *a little* faster, see that same HR . . . but it's the intensity limit built into the walking action that's mainly in play, not my true HRmax. If I ran instead of walked, HR would go higher than fastest walking, asuming I were capable of running.