Measuring Your Heart Rate
Watch any medical drama on TV and the first thing youll see the doctor do is measure the patients heart rate. Firstly because yes, it means theyre alive! Secondly, because our heart rate reveals so much about our general health and fitness. For example, a weak pulse or a racing heart rate can be a sign to a medical professional that something is not right.
So what exactly are they checking? By definition, your heart rate means the number of times your heart beats in a minute. The two most common ways to describe heart rate are:
- In beats per minute .
- As a percentage of your maximum heart rate .
How To Check Your Resting Heart Rate
The best places to check your pulse are your wrists, the inside of your elbow, the side of your neck, and the top of the foot, according to the American Heart Association.
The wrist or neck is easiest for most people, Osborne says, but wherever you can get a good read is fine there’s no location that’s necessarily more accurate than another.
Here’s how to do it:
- Place your index and middle finger on your wrist or neck. Refrain from moving or talking as you press gently and feel for a mild thumping sensation.
- When you feel a consistent pulse, keep your two fingers in the same spot.
- Using a timer to keep track, count your pulse for thirty seconds. Multiply that number by two to calculate your heart rate in beats per minute.
According to Osborne, it makes sense to check your heart rate regularly about every month or so. To get the most accurate measurement, you should take it a few times in a row and try not to smoke, drink alcohol, or have caffeine beforehand, as they can influence your heart rate.
A normal resting heart rate usually ranges bewteen 60 to 100 bpm in adults, but it can vary based on your age, genetics, health conditions, and fitness level.
If you are interested in checking your heart rate while exercising, you’ll need to use a different measure.
How To Determine Your Ideal Heart Rate
As you can tell, your ideal heart rate is dependent on many factors, so determining an ideal can take practice and self-monitoring. Mehta has this advice: It is important to know that there is no heart rate that is necessarily too low or too high with exertion. I would base these levels more on how an individual feels. For example, when I exert myself too much, my heart rate is 180 bpm, and I feel very short of breath. In this case, training to an HR of 180 appears too high, whereas, for others, it can be normal.
With that said, there are methods of determining your ideal heart rate based on the maximal heart rate for your age. A simple calculation is 220 minus your age equals maximal heart rate. Two other more complicated, however perhaps more accurate formulas are:
Tanakas Formula :
208 minus = maximum heart rate
Gulatis Formula :
206 minus = maximum heart rate
This number is purely hypothetical since many people cannot attain their maximal heart rate because doing so is simply too uncomfortable. High-level athletes can maintain and even surpass their theoretical maximal heart rates, says Burns.
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Recommended Target Heart Rates
Once you know your maximum heart rate, aim to work at a percentage of it during a cardio session. The American Heart Association suggests that maintaining your heart rate between 50 percent and 80 percent of its maximum is enough to provide cardiovascular benefits. For maximum results, however, keep your heart rate in a zone of between 70 percent and 90 percent of its maximum when youâre already relatively fit and are intent on improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness.
Athletes may have slightly different approaches to heart rate goals during training. Triathletes, runners and cyclists, for example, have workouts in which they work in a lower zone of 50 to 60 percent of maximum to build a cardiovascular base. They save higher cardio heart rates for specific, targeted workouts to strategically develop their bodyâs engine.
Use A Fitness Tracker Or Smart Watch
Some fitness trackers and smartwatches, such as some models of Fitbit and the Apple Watch, have LED pulse sensors on the underside next to the skin. These must be worn securely against the skin to get a stable and accurate reading.
To save battery life, many of them don’t read continuously. See the instructions for your device to see how to get an on-demand or continuous pulse reading.
These devices often have simplified heart rate zones, such as light, moderate, and vigorous. Some allow you to set a target heart rate and have a visual or auditory alert when you are in your chosen zone.
We’ve tried, tested, and reviewed the best fitness trackers. If you’re in the market for an activity tracker, explore which option may be best for you.
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How Do I Get My Heart Rate In The Target Zone
When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? Theres a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you hit the bullseye so you can get max benefit from every step, swing and squat. Even if youre not a gym rat or elite athlete, knowing your heart rate can help you track your health and fitness level.
Target Heart Rate For Exercise
Your target heart rate is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. It is the level at which your heart is beating with moderate to high intensity. To determine your maximum heart rate, take 220 and subtract your age.
Sustaining a workout at this pace improves cardiorespiratory endurance. So knowing your target heart rate helps you pace your workouts. Exercising at the right level of intensity will help you avoid burning out or wasting time with a workout thats not vigorous enough to help you meet your goals.
Is 128 A Good Heart Rate When Exercising
After six months or more of regular exercise, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.Measuring Heart Rate. Age/yrs Target HR Zone 60 80136 beats per minute 160 beats per minute 65 78132 beats per minute 155 beats per minute 70 75128 beats per minute 150 beats per minute.
What Is Resting Heart Rate
Generally, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute . A low resting heart rate means more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate anywhere around 40 beats per minute.
The simplest and the oldest method to measure your resting heart rate is to check your pulse by placing your two fingers either on your wrist or on the side of the neck. When you feel your pulse:
Number of beats in 15 seconds x 4 = beats per minute.
Many factors can influence heart rate, such as age, fitness levels, smoking habit, cardiovascular disease, emotions, body size, etc.
Consult your doctor if your resting heart rate is consistently above 100 beats a minute or if youre not a trained athlete and your resting heart rate is below 60 beats a minute.
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How To Check Your Heart Rate
The simplest way to check your heart rate is to use a heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitors give immediate feedback to ensure that the training zones are being respected. They can also be useful for runners with certain medical restrictions who must control their maximal heart rates, says Burns.
Heart rate monitors have another useful function when you are not exercising. They are excellent for measuring resting heart rate before getting out of bed in the morning to screen for overtraining. A person in an overtrained state will have a higher resting heart rate than normal, explains Burns.
Checking heart rate without a heart rate monitor is simple. Burns instructs: Stop exercising briefly, palpate the carotid artery on the neck, and count the number of beats for fifteen seconds. Multiply this number by four.
How Does Exercise Affect Heart Rate Over Time
As a person starts to exercise regularly and gain fitness over time, they will be able to exercise within a higher heart rate zone. This is because they are training their heart and muscles to respond to repeat exertion.
People may start out with a target of 50% of their maximum heart rate, but before long, they will be able to comfortably train at a target of 85%.
A 2018 review study found that people can improve their heart health and lower their resting heart rate by exercising regularly. Regular exercise reduces a persons risk of heart attack, stroke, and other medical conditions.
However, the researchers also suggest that continuously high levels of exercise such as marathon running could be harmful to heart health.
Engaging in aerobic and endurance exercises also contributes to improved fitness, increased muscle tone, and improvements in general physical and mental well-being. In fact, one 2016 meta-analysis reports that exercise has a large and significant antidepressant effect on people with depression.
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Does Your Healthy Exercise Heart Rate Change With Age
While you might think that there are things that you can do to stop the effects of aging, as you age your optimal heart rate while exercising is going to drop .,no matter what you do.
As you get older you will need to closely monitor the intensity of your workouts.
Now that you know that your exercise heart rate is going to lower as you get older, you might want to know exactly what your heart rate should be. There are several different ways to calculate this rate.
The first method is known as the Karvonen approach. It is perhaps the easiest, and while it doesnt give you the most exact number, it is a good ballpark number to work off of.
- Simplest way What you do is you take the number 220, and then you simply subtract your age. The number that you arrive at is considered your peak heart rate while exercising. This, however, isnt very accurate and some experts suggest that you work towards a goal of 80% of that total number. What this means is that if you are 58 then your exercise heart rate should be 162, 80% of that is 129. While this isnt a perfect method, it is easy to apply.
- More accurate method To get a more exact heart rate number you will need something a bit more involved than a simple piece of subtraction. The most precise number comes from a heart rate stress test. This particular method will give you the most accurate maximum heart rate number you can find.
Why Is Heart Rate Important
Cardiovascular exercises increase your heart rate. Factors like fitness level, age, medical condition, and the present activity you are engaged in can determine your ideal heart rate for training.
Your heart rate is an important indicator that helps you keep track of how much energy you burn during training.
It can help you determine when and how long you should engage in an exercise.
Indeed, working out offers plenty of positive benefits to your heart health. But you have to do it correctly to get any of those benefits.
Ignoring your heart rate when exercising can cause more harm than good.
When you pay attention to your heart rate during workouts, you will enjoy some or all of the following positive effects:
- Reduces your risk of developing diabetes.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Help to reduce inflammation throughout your body.
- Help you maintain good and healthy body weight.
- Keeps your heart healthy by preventing heart diseases.
- Boosts the muscles ability to draw oxygen from the blood, and reduces the need for the heart to supply more blood to the muscles.
- Reduced risk of sudden heart attack or other chronic heart problems.
- Eliminates stress hormones that put an extra burden on your heart.
Exercising benefits your heart significantly. To make it even more beneficial for your heart, it is important to maintain a healthy lifestyle in addition to eating a good and balanced diet.
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What Is Considered A Dangerous Heart Rate
In general, your heart rate should not go higher than your maximum heart rate based on your age. But, if you have underlying health conditions, your maximum rate may be a little bit lower than this.
Theres no magic formula that can figure out what is a dangerous heart rate for you. But the answer may be simpler than you think listen to your body.
Your body will tell you when your exercise intensity is too high. Exercise will feel hard. But if you feel chest pain or like you cant catch your breath, these could be signs your heart is not getting enough blood. Headache or dizziness can be signs your brain is not getting enough blood.
A dangerous heart rate is:
Associated with chest pain, severe shortness of breath, nausea or vomiting, or dizziness
Greater than your maximum heart rate
Irregular and erratic
If something seems unusual to you, dont push it. Lower your exercise intensity or give your body a chance to rest. And if it happens more than once, its best to get checked out. Its important to see a healthcare professional about any of these symptoms related to heart rate.
What Are Normal Pulse Rates When Exercising
When you exercise, your pulse rate accelerates to help move blood and oxygen through your cells and tissues. Knowing your pulse rate can help you evaluate your exercise routine and maximize the benefits of your workout. The best results occur when your pulse rate stays within your target zone during exercise a pulse rate that’s too high or too low could signal potential problems.
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Ideal Heart Rate For Exercise
After youve gotten the hang of heart rate measurement, you can begin to calculate and monitor your target exercising heart rate.
If youre using the manual method of heart rate measurement, youll need to stop exercising briefly to take your pulse.
If youre using a heart rate monitor, you can continue your workout while keeping an eye on your monitor.
Your doctor can help determine the best target heart rate for you, or you can use general target zone guidelines to determine your target exercise heart rate based on your age.
According to the AHA , moderate-intensity workouts should be closer to the lower end of the target heart rate range that correlates with your age. Within the higher end of the range is the target heart rate for high-intensity, vigorous workouts.
The target heart rate zones noted below are based on what is equal to 50 to 85 percent of the average maximum heart rate for each stated age, and the average maximum heart rate is based on the calculation of 220 minus years of age.
Please be aware that the American Heart Association states that these figures are averages to be used as a general guide. If you feel this guide doesnt fit your personal exercise heart rate target for moderate or vigorous exercise, your doctor will be able to work with you on an individual basis to help determine the target heart rate range that is best for you.
|Target heart rate zone|
|75 to 128 beats per minute||150 beats per minute|
How To Find Your Target Heart Rate
First, it helps to know your resting heart rate, Martin says. Find your pulse . Then count the number of beats in a minutethats your resting heart rate. The average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100, he says. The more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate for very fit people, its in the range of 40 to 50 beats per minute.
Target heart rate is generally expressed as a percentage of your maximum safe heart rate. The maximum rate is based on your age, as subtracted from 220. So for a 50-year-old, maximum heart rate is 220 minus 50, or 170 beats per minute. At a 50 percent exertion level, your target would be 50 percent of that maximum, or 85 beats per minute. At an 85 percent level of exertion, your target would be 145 beats per minute. Therefore, the target heart rate that a 50-year-old would want to aim for during exercise is 85 to 145 beats per minute.
But theres an easier way to figure it out if you want to skip the math: Wear a fitness tracking device, or exercise on a treadmill or other machine that calculates target heart rate for you, Blaha suggests.
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What Is Heart Rate Training
Heart rate training relies on beats per minute as a guide for how fast you should run, and it uses zones based on your maximum heart rate.
Listed below are 5 different zones:
Depending on your goals, you can choose your training zones, for example marathon runners, for example, elite athletes and sprinters may focus more of their training in zones 4 and 5. You can use a heart rate monitor to keep track of your training.
How to Monitor Heart Rate
As mentioned earlier, counting the pulse rate by hand is the most dated and basic way of testing the heart rate.
There is an easier way to do it that is by wearing a wrist watch or a chest monitor that reads your heart rate. An array of wearable products are available online that can help with the same.
Avoid Overexerting Yourself
Keeping your heart rate above the maximum range over a longer period of time can be fatal, especially if you are new to exercising. A study on recreational hockey players found that players who had their heart rates above the maximum level while playing had a hard time recovering post exercise, it also put them at a risk for cardiac events such as arrhythmias, chest pain and discomfort.
It is always recommended to back off a bit if you are constantly hitting the maximum heart rate while running and stop exercising if it makes you feel lightheaded, dizzy or ill.