Heartbeats Per Minute: Increasing Your Lifespan By Decreasing Resting Heart Rate



After learning about horsepower last week, after water-skiing on behind my 70hp boat, I looked at my Apple Watch and saw my heartbeats per minute was a whopping 156BPM. This got me thinking about the engine of our bodies: The Heart.


I showed them a video of that waterskiing session and then a video about “how many heartbeats do you have left?” They were and I was fascinate by the power of the human heart. First, we looked at how were are descendant from fish (two chambered heart) and snakes (three chambered heart) during our embryonic development. Our heart weighs only two thirds of a pound but pumps 1800 gallons of blood through our heart each day over 12,000 miles of veins. We also learned that a Blue Whale’s heart weighs close to 400 pounds and pumps 60 gallons of blood with each beat of its car sized heart.




A rule of thumb is that your maximum heartbeats per minute (BPM) can be found by taking 220 and subtracting your age. I explained to the children that their heart rate is much faster than adults and will slow down by the time they are 10 or 11 years old.


We did some simple math looking at beats per year and lifetime. Using the song from rent, “Seasons of Love,” we calculated 60 minutes per hour times 24 hours times 365 days to get “525,600 minutes, how do you measure a year in a life?” Then using my resting heart rate of 60BPM, we multiplied 6 times 5 to get 30. Then looked at the number of place values following the 5 in 525,600 (5) and following the 6 in 60 (1) and tacked on 6 zeros to 30 to get 30,000,000 (30 million) heartbeats per year. Since I expect to live until I am 100 based on actuarial tables and some very positive life habits, we tacked on two more zeros to get 3 billion heartbeats in my life. Now of course, since the number of minutes in a year is more than 500,000, that number is higher, we saw the power of estimating.


Since humans have a limit of between 2.5 and 3 billion heartbeats, why would I want to raise my heart rate to it maximum while waterskiiing, kitesurfing, biking, paddle boarding, or the many other activities I do each day? Don’t I want to conserve my heartbeats.


After much discussion, we came to the conclusion that if I did not live a healthy life, my resting heart rate could be at the top of the range for adults, 100BPM. Using 100 BPM, an adult would reach their limit by the time they were 60 years old. So, we have an inverse relationship of resting heart rate and lifespan: someone with a resting heart rate of 60 BPM could live until they are 100 years old and someone with a resting heart rate of 100 BPM could live until they are 60 years old. Our goal is to exercise as much as possible to ensure that we will be at the bottom of the range for resting heart rate.


Now for the fun part, I had the children find their pulse in many different places (wrist: radial artery, neck: coratid artery, temple: temporal muscle; and right on their heart). I actually circled with a marker the exact point below my thumb on my radial artery. 


We looked at all of the factor pairs of 60 seconds to see how many different ways we could find our BPM.


1 and 60

2 and 30

4 and 15

3 and 20

6 and 10

12 and 5


Every combination of seconds could be multiplied by the corresponding multiplier to find BPM. 15 seconds should be the most accurate and efficient.


TAKING YOUR HEART RATE (you will need a second hand [watch, stop watch]): 


Place your pointer and middle finger together (don't use your thumb, it has a pulse of its own) on your wrist, just below the base of the thumb. Count the number of beats (pulses) for 15 seconds. Take this number and multiply it by 4 to find your heart rate in beats per minute. For example, if you count 25 beats in 15 seconds, 25 x 4 = 100 beats per minute. My favorite algorithm for multiplying by 4 is to double the number twice (25 doubled is 50 and 50 doubled is 100).


So here’s how to do it:

  1.  Turn your right hand so that your palm is face-up.
  2. With the index and middle fingers of your left hand, draw a line from the base of your thumb to just below the crease in your wrist.  Your fingers should nestle just to the left of the large tendon that pops up when you bend your wrist toward you.
  3. Don’t press too hard, that will make the pulse go away.  Use gentle pressure.
  4. Wait.  It can take several seconds—and several micro-adjustments in the placement of your two fingers on your wrist—to find your pulse.  Just keep moving your fingers down or up your wrist in small increments (and pausing for a few seconds) until you find it.


Resting heart rate for different ages:


Resting heart rate (sitting down, doing nothing):

  • Newborns 0 to 1 month old: 70 to 190 beats per minute
  • Infants 1 to 11 months old: 80 to 160 beats per minute
  • Children 1 to 2 years old: 80 to 130 beats per minute
  • Children 3 to 4 years old: 80 to 120 beats per minute
  • Children 5 to 6 years old: 75 to 115 beats per minute
  • Children 7 to 9 years old: 70 to 110 beats per minute
  • Children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors): 60 to 100 beats per minute
  • Well-trained athletes: 40 to 60 beats per minute

Doesn't exercise waste valuable heartbeats? NO


An average resting heart rate can range from 60 to 100 beats per minute, but for this example, let’s call it 75 beats per minute. That means this person’s heart would beat 108,000 times a day.



  • When you exercise, your heart rate increases substantially. For vigorous exercise, your heart might reach a sustained rate of 150 beats per minute. If you kept up your routine for an hour, that would translate to 9,000 beats for one hour.
  • But exercise also has the effect of slowing a person’s resting heart rate, with highly conditioned athletes often having resting pulses in the range of 40 to 50 beats per minute.
  • Assuming a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute, the heart of the well-conditioned person would beat another 69,000 times over the remaining 23 hours of the day. Add that to the hour of exercise, and you get a daily total of 78,000 beats.
  • That means our jogger (or swimmer, aerobicist or bicycler) has a heart that beats 30,000 fewer times a day. Over a year, that’s almost 11 million beats conserved. And over 70 or 80 years, the figure approaches 100 million.
  • Obviously, these numbers will vary a bit.
  • But the lesson remains the same: Exercising saves heartbeats.
  • There is no fixed number of heartbeats per human life span.
  • The “rate-of-living theory” is an ancient explanation of longevity that hypothesized that aging occurs due to the exhaustion of something finite such as heartbeats or breaths. Perhaps it finds its origins in the animal kingdom, where hummingbirds (whose hearts can beat more than 1,000 times a minute) rarely live more than a few years, while slow-pulsed elephants (30 beats per minute) routinely survive to the ripe, old age of 70.
  • But scientific studies have debunked this theory in humans. Indeed, by extending our lives by an average of 30 years over the last century, modern medicine has greatly increased the number of heartbeats each of us enjoys in our lifetimes.

If I live until 100, how many heartbeats will I have?


(100 yr) x (365.25 days/yr) x (24 hr/day) x (60 min/hr) x (60 heartbeats/min) = 3,155,760,000 heartbeats



  • resting heart rate of under 50 have the highest life expectancy
  • 71 to 80 beats per minute had a 51 percent worse life expectancy
  • 81 to 90 beats per minute, that risk was double
  • Over 90, the risk tripled.


Amazing facts about heart rate:

  • The fetal heart begins to beat with a regular rhythm at around 6 to 7 weeks of pregnancy. By week of 22, fetal heartbeat can be heard with stethoscope.
  • On an average the blood travels a total of 12,000 miles in a day.
  • Each heart beat pumps blood and, in a lifetime, one million barrels of blood are pumped.
  • The heart beats 3 billion times in an average lifespan of 80 years.
  • On an average, animals have a limit of about 1 billion heartbeats in a lifetime.
  • If we were to live only 1 billion heartbeats our average lifespan would be 26 years.


Calculating Your Recovery Heart Rate (we did this with the 5/6th graders):


1. First, take your pulse while you're relaxed.


2. Exercise to reach your target heart rate, which is 60 to 80 percent of 220 minus your age. Once your heart rate is within the target range, stop exercising and measure your heart rate immediately. 


3. Rest for two minutes and take your pulse again. The difference between the two numbers indicates your recovery rate zone. 


A difference of 66, for example, is a healthier recovery rate than 22. Basically, the faster your heart can return to its resting rate after exercise, the better shape you are in. Your biological age might even be lower than your chronological age.


  • ______ beats per minute
  • 220 - Your Age = _______; this is your target heart rate 
  • Exercise to get your heart rate to be more than half your target rate: _________
  • Heart rate after two minutes after exercise: _________
  • subtract your after two minutes heart rate from your exercise target rate: ___________
  • your goal is to raise the recovery rate difference.




  1. During the week, the children and you should find your resting heart rate using several combinations of 60 and find your easiest method of taking your pulse.
  2. Use the worksheets to do several activities for up to 5 minutes, then stop and immediately take your heart rate BPM and record them. I listed walking, running in place, jumping jacks, but I highly recommend that students try their favorite activities (soccer, hockey, dance, and even reading, chess, and video games) to see how their heart rate changes.
  3. Then make a plan to do more of the activities that increase your heart rate leading to a lower resting heart rate leading to a longer and more productive life.




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