The aim of this study was to evaluate the distribution of resting heart rate and its biological and environmental determinants in adolescents. The study was cross- sectional and the population consisted of 2230 children and adolescents, age range 12-18 years, enrolled randomly from state schools in Turin, Italy. In all participants the following parameters were evaluated: heart rate, blood pressure (BP), weight, height, degree of sexual development, physical activity, parental socio-cultural level. Heart rate and BP were measured after 5, 10 and 15 min in a sitting position. Furthermore, to obtain regression equations to define heart rate as a function of the other variables available, a multiple regression analysis was performed. In both sexes BP, but not heart rate, declined significantly from the first to the last determination. Heart rate was positively and significantly correlated to BP level in both sexes; heart rate was higher in girls (3 bpm) and followed a progressive decreasing trend with age in both sexes, that was opposite to BP values. Age, sexual maturation, height, physical activity and parental socio-cultural level were independent determinants of resting heart rate. In conclusion, resting heart rate in adolescents is related to several methodological, constitutional and environmental factors that have to be taken into account when assessing heart rate values and constructing tables of normal values.