Most refer to the resting heart rate when it comes to cardiovascular conditioning. Your resting heart rate is an indicator of how healthy your heart is and your level of fitness, the lower the better (not TOO low). Although this is a good measure of your heart's current health your recovery heart rate gives similar insight in a different way.
RESTING HEART RATE VS RECOVERY HEART RATE
Your resting heart rate is the number of beats your heart gives during one minute (60 seconds). Your recovery heart rate is the difference of heart rate just after exercise and the two minutes following. Basically, the faster your heart can return to a slower rate within these two minutes the better.
HOW TO CHECK YOUR RESTING & RECOVERY RATES
It's easier to check your resting heart rate than it is to record your recovery heart rate. To do the latter you need a heart rate monitor of some sort to get an accurate measurement (it can be done manually). Below is a couple video links with information on how to check your resting heart rate (for those who don't already know how) and some different heart rate monitors available today.
Ideally the heart rate monitor you choose will have a recovery heart rate option that records this data at the click of a button. If not, you'll need to do some simple math.
Here's what you do: Using your heart rate monitor note your heart rate exactly when you stop exercising (not a complete stop), then note your heart rate after two minutes, subtract the second number from the the first number and voila!
You just finished a run with your heart rate monitor, you look and see that it's reading 175 bpm (beats per minute). Walking as slow as possible (1.5 mph on the treadmill) wait for two minutes to pass. At the two minute mark your heart rate is now 130 bpm. Your resting heart rate is the difference between these two numbers:
175 bpm - 130 bpm = 45
Recovery Heart Rate: 45
POOR TO SUPERIOR RECOVERY HEART RATES
Below is a table displaying poor to superior ranges for recovery heart rates. Use this as a guide to let you know if you need to start exercising, working out more, or sustaining your current fitness level.
Medical attention is necessary if your recovery heart rate is < 12 bmp after 1 minute and < 22 bpm after 2 minutes following exercise. Various medications can affect your results.
MEASURE YOUR HEART
If you've never recorded your recovery-heart-rate I encourage you to do so, same goes for those who've never done this but are in good physical shape already. It's important to know where you're at, regardless of your fitness level, and check-in on these numbers from time to time for the sake of your long-term health. Given that you act upon the data you see, knowing where you're at may just save you from future heart attacks or cardiovascular disease.
The body is a house for the mind and the soul, the better you take care of it the better everything works together. Start taking ownership over your body and treat it like a temple, it's the only one you have (unless we become bionic in the future . . . yikes!). Don't run the risk of bad health that's preventable, know your numbers and act accordingly . . . measure your heart.
Get Fit, Stay Fit, Enjoy Life!