How to check Recovery heart rate on your Apple Watch and why it needs your attention

Heart Recovery Rate on Apple Watch

Recovery rate or heart rate recovery rate is an important metric that Apple made available on its Apple Watch.

Typically, most of us pay attention to the commonly used exercise metrics such as the number of calories burned, duration of exercise, distance covered or steps walked along with heart rate.

Your Apple Watch provides you with a powerful metric that is often overlooked by many users. This is your heart recovery rate.

In this article, we will show you how you can check this important metric using your iPhone and Apple Watch and more importantly why you should be monitoring your HRR on a regular basis.

Related Reading:

Recovery Heart Rate

Heart rate recovery ( HRR ) is commonly defined as the decrease of heart rate at 1 minute after completion of exercise and is an important predictor of your health. Think of it as your pulse rate following an exercise.

The rule of the thumb is that a lower recovery heart rate following vigorous exercise is better. 

Trainers always advice their clients to monitor the heart rate recovery following an intense workout session. Typically they are looking for your heart rate to fall under 100 beats per minute in the first 3 minutes after exercise.

How do you check the Recovery heart rate on your Apple Watch?

Apple makes this important metric available on your Apple Watch following your workout.

The heart rate sensor on your Apple Watch stays active for three minutes after you end a workout to measure your heart rate recovery. 

After completing a workout, you can tap the heart icon on your workout summary to view your recovery in real-time.

Checking heart rate recovery for specific completed workouts is easy and is done via the Fitness app on your iPhone.

  1. Open the Fitness App on your iPhoneLocating Recovery rate on fitness app
  2. Tap on the Summary tab at the bottom of the screen
  3. Click on a specific workout listed under Workoutsworkout analysis for Apple Watch
  4. Tap on ‘Show More’ to see additional completed workouts 
  5. Select a completed workout by tapping on it
  6. Scroll left on the chart for Heart RateCheck Recovery heart rate on apple watch
  7. You will now see the Heart Rate recovery Heart Rate recovery on Apple Watch

This shows you your heart rate recovery following the completion of your exercise, your HRR following one minute and two minutes following the completion.

What is a good Heart Rate Recovery on your Apple Watch?

The fitter you are, the quicker your heart rate will return to normal after exercise. 

The gold standard for measuring the HRR is by using the YMCA 3-minute step test that requires you to step on and off a 12-inch step for 3 minutes straight while keeping a consistent pace and then see how quickly your heart rate will come back down.

When 3 minutes are up, stop immediately, sit down on the step, and check your heart rate recovery metric by using the digital crown on your apple watch to scroll down on the results following the end of the 3-minute workout.

You can compare your results with the YMCA 3-minute step test results using the table below.

Heart Rate Recovery scores by sex and age following the 3 minute YMCA step test
Ratings for Men

based on Age

18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65
Excellent

50-76

51-76

49-76

56-82

60-77

59-81

Good

79-84

79-85

80-88

87-93

86-94

87-92

Above Average

88-93

88-94

92-88

95-101

97-100

94-102

Average

95-100

96-102

100-105

103-111

103-109

104-110

Below Average

102-107

104-110

108-113

113-119

111-117

114-118

Poor

111-119

114-121

116-124

121-126

119-128

121-126

Very Poor

124-157

126-161

130-163

131-159

131-154

130-151

Ratings of women

based on Age

18-25 26-35 36-45 46-55 56-65 65
Excellent

52-81

58-80

51-84

63-91

60-92

70-92

Good

85-93

85-92

89-96

95-101

97-103

96-101

Above Average

96-102

95-101

100-104

104-110

106-111

104-111

Average

104-110

104-110

107-112

113-118

113-118

116-121

Below Average

113-120

113-119

115-120

120-124

119-127

123-126

Poor

122-131

122-129

124-132

126-132

129-135

128-133

Very Poor

135-169

134-171

137-169

137-171

141-174

135-155

 

This simple chart provides you with some insights into how your recovery heart rate measures up to the averages of other people in the age group. It is important to know that these results will not be of much importance if you are taking any heart medications.

Another study from 2015 tested 274 elite male athletes. Those over the age of 18 had an average 1-minute HRR of 29.5, compared to 22.4 for subjects under 18.

Why is the Heart Rate Recovery metric important?

Here are some reasons why you should periodically check your heart rate recovery metric following your workouts.

According to widely available research, the increase in heart rate that accompanies exercise is due in part to a reduction in vagal tone.

Recovery of the heart rate immediately after exercise is a function of vagal reactivation.

Because a generalized decrease in vagal activity is known to be a risk factor for death, the prevalent thinking is that a delayed fall in the heart rate after exercise might be an important prognostic marker. [1]

The autonomic nervous system (ANS) and cardiovascular function are intricately and closely related.

One of the most frequently used diagnostic and prognostic tools for evaluating cardiovascular function is the exercise stress test. Exercise increases sympathetic and decreased parasympathetic activity and the period of recovery after maximum exercise is characterized by a combination of sympathetic withdrawal and parasympathetic reactivation, which are the two main arms of the ANS.

Heart rate recovery after graded exercise is one of the commonly used techniques that reflects autonomic activity and predicts cardiovascular events and mortality, not only in cardiovascular system disorders but also in various systemic disorders.

The early post-exercise recovery period in diabetes was characterized by enhanced sympathoexcitation, diminished parasympathetic reactivation and delay in heart rate recovery. If you are borderline diabetic, you may want to keep an eye on your heart rate recovery metric.[2]

It has been shown that children with higher BMI (Body mass index), particularly those who are overweight, and those with lower exercise endurance, have slower 1-min HR recovery.[3].

This would mean that if you are trying to get better HR recovery scores, you will have to exercise regularly and manage your BMI.

Heart Rate recovery rate is a powerful prognosticator available on your Apple Watch and is often overlooked. Attenuated HRR is associated with overall increased risk of cardiovascular events.HRR and HRV are significantly reduced in CAD.

HRR and HRV are seen as significantly reduced in users with Coronary artery disease. The reduction in HRR is parallel to the changes in HRV parameters. HRR, which can be measured easily in the recovery phase of exercise testing, can be used to detect the depression of the parasympathetic tonus and to evaluate the basal autonomic balance in this patient group. [4].

Apple Watch users should keep a close eye on this metric along with other widely followed metrics such as VO2 (Cardio fitness level) and HRV on your Apple Watch.

Support of Heart Rate Recovery Rate in other popular wearables

Other popular wearables such as WHOOP and Fitbit do not automatically display the recovery rate.

Upon concluding your workout, you will need to continue to monitor your heart rate for 1 minute in order to determine your HRR.

The problem with manually monitoring HRR is that you will have to keep tabs on this important metric and establish any trends. 

Apple Watch’s ability to automatically compute this following the completion of your workout in n+1 and n+2 minute intervals is really handy.

We hope that you found this article helpful. Please let us know using the comments below if you have any questions or if you would like to share your favorite Apple Watch tip or two.

References:

[1] Cole-Blackstone heart rate recovery study

[2] Detection of cardiovascular neuropathy in patients with Type-2 diabetes

[3] Heart rate recovery following exercise in children

[4] Coronary artery disease, HRV, and HRR Study

I am a technologist with years of experience with Apple and wearOS products and have a Bachelor’s degree in Computer Science. In my day job, I advise fortune 500 companies with their digital transformation strategies and also consult with numerous digital health startups in an advisory capacity. I'm VERY interested in exploring the digital health&fitness-tech evolution and keep a close eye on patents, FDA approvals, strategic partnerships and developments happening in the wearables and digital health sector. When I'm not writing or presenting, I run with my Apple Watch or Fossil Gen 5 LTE and keep a close eye on my HRV and other recovery metrics.

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