young dark haired woman exercising outdoors checks her target heart rate

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Why you should monitor your exercise heart rate

  • Your target heart rate is a guideline that can help you stay in a safe exercise heart rate range.
  • An average resting heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats each minute.
  • Because medication may affect your heart rate, it’s important to check with your health care provider before starting an exercise routine.

The benefits of regular workouts and exercise are huge. Regular aerobic exercise helps your cardiovascular system become more efficient, transporting oxygen and nutrients to your tissues and working muscles. The more effective your body is at doing this, the more energy you feel, the better your immune system functions, and your risk factors for many diseases are greatly reduced. Exercise also releases endorphins which help reduce stress and improve your emotional and mental health.

Even a little exercise is better than none at all. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends at least 30 minutes of physical activity five days a week. If you can’t find the time for a full half hour workout, three, 10-minute sessions may have similar health benefits, as long as you increase your heart rate to a level that gives your heart a good workout.

Importance of monitoring your workout heart rate

While a regular aerobic workout can strengthen your heart, overdoing it or “overheating” could hurt you. It’s important to exercise at a safe and effective level. This is crucial if you have a heart or cardiovascular condition. Monitoring your target heart rate can help you stay in a safe exercise heart rate.

And, because medicines may change your heart rate, it’s important to check with your health care provider before starting an exercise routine. If this is the case, there are better ways to gauge your exercise intensity than monitoring your heart rate.

Target exercise heart rate guidelines

An average resting heart rate is between 60 to 100 beats a minute. Your target exercise heart rate is based on 60 - 85 percent of a maximum heart rate. For most people target exercise heart rate levels are:

  • Light exercise – between 60 - 70% of your maximum heart rate
  • Moderate exercise– between 71- 85% of your maximum heart rate.

If you are just starting an exercise routine, you may want to start out at 60 to 70 percent of your target heart rate. Then, as you become more fit, you can progress to 70 to 85 percent of your target heart rate. As your age increases, your target heart rate will decrease.

Certain aerobic or cardio workouts require that you exercise at high intensity for a set period of time with built in rest periods. This intensity can be dangerous if you are just beginning to work out or have heart or cardiovascular conditions. That’s why it’s important to monitor your heart rate. As a general rule of thumb:

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

For example: If you are 30 years old and just starting to work out, your exercise heart rate would be between 114 and 133 beats per minute, and 19 to 22 beats per 10 second count.

Use this chart to find your target exercise heart rate by age

Ways to calculate and monitor your exercise heart rate

  • Smart apps, gadgets and equipment monitors.
    Many smart phone apps, smart watches, fitness monitors and workout equipment often can help track things like your target heart rate.
  • Check your pulse.
    Put two fingers on the inside of your wrist just below your thumb then press lightly until you feel your pulse.
    • Count your heartbeats for 10 seconds. Multiply your heartbeats by six.
    • If your pulse is irregular or skips beats, count your beats for a full 60 seconds.
    • If your rate is higher than average, slow down and don't exercise so hard.
  • Do the “talk test”.

If you can have a fairly normal conversation while exercising or if you can sing, you probably need to work a little harder. If you have trouble talking or singing, you may need to slow down.

Signs you may be working out too intensely

As you exercise, be aware of your body’s response. Signs you may be exercising too intensely include:

  • dizziness or lightheadedness
  • ·nausea and vomiting
  • cold sweat
  • shortness of breath that makes conversation difficult
  • exhaustion or unusual fatigue
  • feeling as if your heart is suddenly racing or pounding
  • any chest pain or pressure in your:
    • teeth
    • arm
    • jaw
    • ear
    • neck
    • between your shoulder blades.

Exercise safely

Warm up and cool down are important parts of your exercise program. Take time to slowly bring your heart rate into your heart rate range. This safely prepares your body for aerobic exercise and reduces your risk of injury. Changes also occur with blood pressure during exercise, so including a cool down at the end of a workout will slowly return your blood pressure and heart rate back to pre-exercise conditions.

 

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