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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

Heart rate chart

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 iconMET chart


 

 

Source: Allina Health's Patient Education Department, Helping Your Heart, fourth edition, cvs-ahc-90648

First published: 10/04/2002
Last updated: 06/01/2007

Reviewed by: Allina Health's Patient Education Department experts