Why You Should Monitor Your Heart Rate During Exercise

May 14, 2010

By Cindy Witt

Man exercising hard on treadmillDoes your heart need to be running like a racehorse, your body soaked with perspiration and out of breath to get the most out of your fitness program? The answer to the above questions is no. Your heart rate while exercising should be monitored to help you determine how intense your exercise should be.

A lot of us have heard about monitoring your heart rate but don’t really understand that keeping track of your heart rate not only keeps you within safe parameters for exercise but can serve as an excellent tool for gauging your progress in whatever fitness program you choose to undertake.

Article Overview

This article will:
• Define your cardiovascular rate
• Show you how to use your heart rate to achieve your fitness goals
• Teach you how to take your pulse accurately
• Help you estimate your recommended maximum heart rate based on your age
• Help you calculate what your heart rate should be while exercising
• Educate you about heart rate monitors

What is Cardiovascular Output?

Cardiovascular rate or cardiovascular output is a product of two factors: one is heart rate and the other is stroke volume. Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute and stroke volume is the measured in millimeters per beat. Measuring your stroke volume is very hard to do and not important to focus on.

If your heart rate is multiplied by stroke volume, the resulting volume would represent your cardiac output. Cardiac output can be expressed by the following equation Q =HR x SV. For example, if your heart beats 70 times per minute (HR x 70) and 70 ml of blood is pumped for each beat (SV x 70 ml) the cardiovascular output would be 70 bpm (beats per minute) x 70 ml per beat = 4900 ml per minute, which equates to slightly more than a gallon of blood pumped through the heart per minute.

How Does Monitoring Your Heart Rate Help You Achieve Your Fitness Goals?

Now that we understand how to determine our cardiovascular rate it is important to know why we take the trouble to figure this out. There are two main reasons: one is so we can maintain a margin of safety in our exercise program and the second is so that we can determine what intensity to exercise at to achieve our desired goals and results from our fitness routine. For example, by monitoring your heart rate you may notice that you are not working out as had as you should be.

While 60 to 100 heartbeats per minute for someone just beginning to exercise would be considered a normal resting heart rate a seasoned athlete could have a resting heart rate in the low forties.

As you continue to work out you will notice that your heart rate may go down even as you exercise more intensely. This can give you extra motivation to work out knowing that you are strengthening your heart and increasing your cardiovascular output.

The Proper Way to Take Your Pulse

Taking one's pulse to monitor heart rateYour heart rate should be taken at the wrist, below the thumb and directly in line with the index finger. Count how many beats occur in 15 seconds and multiply this by 4 and you will have determined your beats per minute. It is recommended that you use your fingertips rather than your thumb to count the beats as the thumb has a pulse of its own. The best time to determine your resting heart rate is just before you get out of bed in the morning.

What Should Your Maximum Heart Rate Be?

Assuming that you have no underlying health issues and are not taking any medications that may affect your heart rate it is important to first determine your maximum heart rate, which can be estimated by using the formula MHR (maximum heart rate) which is simply 220 – your age. For example, the maximum heart rate for someone 60 years of age would be 220 – 60 = 160 bpm.

What Should Your Heart Rate be to get the Most Benefit From Exercising?

To get the heart pumping to produce fat burning the heart rate should be 60 to 70% of the maximum heart rate. To produce aerobic fitness results the heart rate should be 70 to 80% of the maximum heart rate. The formula is (220 – your age) x 70-80%.

Keeping track of your heart rate helps ensure that you achieve your desired results that have been prescribed by your physician or personal trainer. If you aren’t exercising at a high enough intensity you may not be getting all the benefits of the activity.

What type of heart rate monitors are available and how much are they?

Heart Rate Monitor Watch To get an accurate and constant reading on your heart rate you can use a Heart Rate Monitor. There are several types of heart rate monitors on the market that are excellent for monitoring your heart rate during exercise and can be found in fitness stores, drug stores and even your neighborhood Wal-Mart. The most recommended consist of a strap that goes around the chest with a receiver fastened to the wrist. There is also a wristwatch style monitor and one that is worn on the index finger. They range in price anywhere from 50 to 150 dollars. A monitor in the 60 dollar range would give you a reliable and accurate reading of your heart rate.

It is important to note that this is only a general guide to help you understand the importance of monitoring your cardiovascular rate and that you should not start any exercise program without first checking with your physician. Once you get the green light, put your heart into it and get going!

Cindy Witt

About the Author Cindy is 51 years old and has been a Langley resident since 1970. She has always been interested in fitness and enjoys working out with weights, swimming, jogging and hiking. She enjoys drawing, painting with soft pastels and playing with her Jack Russell Terrier.

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