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Measuring how your heart reacts to exercise

  • There are several ways to measure how hard you are exercising.

    Measure your heart rate

    Number of pulses 10 seconds Beats per minute
    10 60
    11 66
    12 72
    13 78
    14 84
    15 90
    16 96
    17 102
    18 108
    19 114
    20 120
    21 126
    22 132
    23 138
    24 144
    25 150

    Take the number of pulses in 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to get the beats per minute.

    One way to know how your heart is reacting to exercise is to check your heart rate.

    Your heart rate lets you know how fast your heart is beating.

    You may also need to check your heart rate if you take medicine to regulate your heartbeat, or if you have a pacemaker.

    Check your heart rate by taking your pulse rate (radial or carotid).

    Taking your radial pulse

      • Take your radial pulse on either wrist.
      • With your palm up, use the tips of your fingers of your other hand.
      • Feel the pulse on the thumb side of your wrist.
      • Press gently. Use enough pressure to feel your heartbeat, but don't press too hard, or you'll obstruct your blood flow.
      • Count how many times your heart beats in 10 seconds and multiply by six. You can use the second hand of your watch or a nearby clock. (See the chart at left.)

    Taking your carotid pulse

    • Take your carotid pulse on either side of your neck. Don't press on both sides at the same time - you can get lightheaded.Listed below are the types
    • Use the tips of your index and middle fingers.
    • Locate the area on one side of your neck, near your windpipe.
    • Press gently. Use enough pressure to feel your heartbeat, but don't press too hard, or you'll obstruct your blood flow.
    • Count how many times your heart beats in 10 seconds and multiply by six. You can use the second hand of your watch or a nearby clock. (See the chart above.)

    Measure your target heart rate

    The target heart rate is a guideline that can help you stay in a safe exercise heart rate range. This will help improve your fitness.

    The target heart rate is based on 60 to 80 percent of a maximum heart rate.

    • A number less than your target rate means your heart isn't working hard enough.
    • A number higher than your target rate means your heart is working too hard.

    If you are just starting an exercise routine, you may want to start out at 60 to 70 percent of your target heart rate. As you become more fit, you may want to progress to 70 to 80 percent of your target heart rate.

    As your age increases, your target heart rate will decrease.

    Target heart rate maximum - Target training zones

    Approximate maximum heart rate Maximum target training zones (beats per minute)
    Age Heart rate 60% 65% 70% 75% 80% 85%
    20 200 120 130 140 150 160 170
    25 195 117 127 137 146 156 166
    30 190 114 124 133 143 152 162
    35 185 111 120 130 139 148 157
    40 180 108 117 126 135 144 153
    45 175 105 114 123 131 140 149
    50 170 102 111 119 128 136 145
    55 165 99 107 116 124 132 140
    60 160 96 104 112 120 128 136
    65 155 93 101 109 116 124 132
    70 150 90 98 105 113 120 128
    75 145 87 94 102 109 116 123
    80 140 84 91 98 105 112 119

    In general, if you are staying in the hospital (inpatient) and you have angina, had a heart attack, or have heart failure, your target heart rate is the resting heart rate plus 25 beats per minute as the maximum heart rate.

    If you had open heart surgery or valve surgery, your target heart rate is the resting heart rate plus 35 beats per minute as the maximum heart rate.

    • If you keep your heart rate in the lower range of the guideline, you will be able to exercise longer.
    • If you keep your heart rate in the higher range of the guideline, you will have better cardiorespiratory fitness.

    Certain heart medicines (such as beta blockers) may decrease your heart rate at rest and with exercise. It is important to remember that your heart rate will go up with exercise, but may not increase as much as it did before starting your medicines. This does not prevent you from reaching a new improved level of fitness and conditioning.

    Ask your health care provider if your medicines will affect your heart rate.

    Important

    If you have heart failure, avoid exercises like painting, snow shoveling, carrying heavy weights, or pushing a car out of deep snow.

    Measure your activity through 'METS'

    A MET, metabolic energy equivalent, is a unit of measurement (like a cup or an inch) that measures how much effort an activity requires from you. For example, lying down takes one MET; sitting and lifting both arms, two METS; walking on a flat surface, three METS; or climbing stairs, six METS. Factors that influence how much energy you're spending include:

    • how fast you're moving
    • your body weight
    • stress
    • humidity
    • extreme heat or cold
    • emotion
    • tension
    • pressure
    • competition
    • anxiety
    • the part of your body you are using
    • how recently you have eaten

    If you have had a heart attack or surgery, your activities may be at the two to three MET level at the time of your hospital discharge. Follow your doctor's instructions about activities when you return home. PDF icon MET chart


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