Your heart does not beat in a rigid rhythm like a metronome. It fluctuates according to physical activity and your body’s need for oxygen. Typical adult resting heart rate is between 60-100 beats per minute (BPM). A high heart rate is considered anything above 100. 

A low resting heart rate is associated with immense health benefits and there are simple breathing exercises that can be implemented to achieve these goals. 

Let’s have a look at why lowering your heart rate is important and discover three breathing techniques that can help you achieve this. 

Why should we strive for a lower heart rate? 

A lowered resting heart rate aids in the regulation of blood pressure as it allows the body’s arteries to dilate and effectively pump blood throughout the body. 

This sounds pretty basic, but the truth is, without this proper regulation of blood pressure your organs and tissues would be deficient in nutrients. This is definitely not something you want. 

In the long term, a lowered heart rate is associated with a reduced risk in cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and strokes. If that wasn’t enough, a lowered heart rate positively influences mental and cognitive functioning and an overall sense of relaxation and clarity. 

The bottom line is that increasing your heart rate regularly puts strain on the heart in the same way that driving a car at full speed all the time damages a motor. You need to look after and regulate your cardiovascular system in the same way that you would maintain an engine. Negligence leads to deterioration.

Get to know about: Exploring the Interplay Between Heart Rate Variability and Anxiety

Why does heart rate increase? 

Understanding why heart rate fluctuates is crucial for determining whether it is a normal variation or an indicator of an underlying health concern. 

Here are several factors that increase a heart rate:

    
Factor Description
Physical exercise People who don't have a regular fitness routine usually have a higher resting heart rate and when they exercise their heart rate tends to be higher than what’s expected from a fit individual.
Age Infants and children generally have higher heart rates at rest compared to adults. As individuals age, their hearts become more efficient, leading to a lower resting heart rate.
Genetics and medical conditions Some people may inherit a predisposition to a higher or lower resting heart rate from their parents. Certain medical conditions can contribute to an increased resting heart rate too. Tachycardia, for example, is a condition associated with an abnormally high resting heart rate and can be as a result of hyperthyroidism. Anemia, fever, and infections are other examples of conditions that may cause an increase in heart rate.
Stress Stress and anxiety elevate heart rate when the body’s sympathetic nervous system is triggered due to stressors. Even well-conditioned athletes who should have low resting heart rates can experience this increase as a result of stress.
Dehydration Inadequate fluid intake and dehydration affects your blood volume. You guessed it, this also leads to an increase in heart rate. When your body is dehydrated, your heart has to work so much harder to pump blood around your body.
Stimulants Stimulants such as caffeine can temporarily raise heart rate especially in individuals who are sensitive to these substances.

3 Breathing Exercises to Lower Heart Rate

Deep Diaphragmatic Breathing

Deep diaphragmatic breathing is considered to be one of the simplest and most effective breathing techniques for lowering your heart rate. 

Here’s how it works: 

  • Sit or lay down comfortably. 
  • One hand is positioned on your chest and the other on your abdomen to help you ensure your chest isn’t doing the work. 
  • Inhale deeply through your nose, so that your abdomen expands like a balloon, and exhale slowly through your mouth.

By engaging the diaphragm, this technique triggers the body's parasympathetic nervous system response and allows the heart rate to decrease. The more passive your exhale is, the lower the heart rate will get. You can also additionally relax your shoulders, facial muscles and belly to enhance the calming effect.

Also know about: Selecting the Perfect Breathing Exercise Device: A Comprehensive Guide

Box Breathing (4-4-4-4)

Box breathing is a breathing technique that promotes lower heart rate. It involves four basic steps: 

  • Inhale on a count of 4.
  • Hold your breath for a four count. 
  • Exhale on a count of 4.
  • Hold your breath once more before repeating the cycle.

Make sure you stay relaxed and use your nose and diaphragm throughout the practice. This method helps calm the nervous system, reduce stress, and promote a slower heart rate.

Resonance Breathing

Resonance breathing is another easy to use technique that supports maintaining a slow and rhythmic breath pattern. The effects induced are a calm body, making it a powerful tool in naturally lowering your heart rate. 

Please note that it is not possible to know your optimal breath pattern without a live biofeedback device. Take a look at Oxa Life for more information on breathing exercise devices.

Incorporating these breathing exercises into your daily routine can significantly contribute to lowering your heart rate naturally and promoting cardiovascular health. Oxa offers comprehensive resources and guidance to help you achieve and maintain a healthy heart rate through personalized breathing exercises. 

FAQ

Q: What is the optimal heart rate at rest?

R: The typical resting heart rate for adults is between 60 to 100 beats per minute. However, some individuals may naturally have a higher baseline heart rate. Factors such as physical fitness, age, genetics, stress, and certain medical conditions can contribute to variations in resting heart rate.

Q: Why do some people have a higher resting heart rate?

A: Several factors can contribute to a higher resting heart rate. Regular exercise, especially in well-conditioned athletes, can lead to a higher baseline heart rate. Age, genetics, stress, dehydration, and certain medical conditions like hyperthyroidism or anemia can also influence resting heart rate.

Q: Why is it important to lower heart rate?

A: Lowering the heart rate is crucial for maintaining optimal cardiovascular health. It is associated with better blood pressure regulation, reduced stress levels, improved exercise performance, and a decreased risk of long-term cardiovascular conditions such as heart disease and strokes. Additionally, a lower heart rate contributes to better sleep quality and an overall sense of well-being.

Q: How can intentional breathing exercises lower the heart rate?

A: Intentional breathing exercises, such as deep diaphragmatic breathing, box breathing, and resonance breathing, engage the body's relaxation response. These techniques improve blood pressure regulation, and induce a state of calmness. Scientific studies support the positive impact of intentional breathing on heart health, reducing cortisol levels and promoting overall well-being.

Stéphane Janssoone
Published:
July 17, 2024

A former elite triathlete, now a competitive freediver, MBTI I & 2, Certified Wim Hof, and Oxygen Advantage Instructor, epitomizes mastery in breathwork and personal development. As the founder of the Breathing Academy and Oxa Life’s Breathing Advisor, his transformative breath-based techniques profoundly impact individuals’ health and performance through an innovative and holistic approach.

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