“Why should I monitor my heart rate during exercise and what should it be?” – I have been asked those very questions many times by people who want to know if they are working hard enough to see results and by those that are concerned that their heart rate may be too high due to medical reasons.
How to Check Your Heart Rate
Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.
Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute.
Determining your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) will give you an idea of your current level of aerobic fitness. According to the National Institute of Health the average resting heart rate is 60-100 BPM and for a very aerobically fit person 40-60 BPM. The best time to take your RHR is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed.
Determining Your Target Heart Rate
In order to determine your Target Heart Rate, you will first need to know what your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is. You can use this age-based formula for a rough baseline, 220 – Age = MHR. While performing your physical activity you want to stay between 50% and 85% of your MHR – this would be your Target Heart Rate.
Target Heart Rates suggested by the American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM):
General aerobic and endurance training:
- 50-65% for beginners
- 60-75% for intermediate exercisers
- 70-85% for well aerobically trained
For example, if you’re a 45-year-old beginner with no known health issues, your maximum heart rate is approximately 175 beats a minute. 50% to 65% of that maximum is 87 to 113 BPM; this should be your starting point for cardiovascular activity. *
For weight loss, use interval training to burn the most calories. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise followed by lower-intensity recovery periods. Not recommended for beginners.
- 80-85% high-intensity
- 50-65% lower-intensity recovery
There are many variables that can affect your heart rate levels such as: caffeine, stress, dehydration, and medications. Please consult your physician before starting any exercise program.
Heart Rate Monitors
By wearing a heart rate monitor, you can make sure you’re pushing hard enough when you need to be giving it your all (like during high-intensity intervals) and recovering enough when you need to (during the recovery section of an interval workout).
During the first few weeks of working out, aim for the lower ranges of your target zone (50 percent) and gradually build up to the higher range (85 percent). After six months or more, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
– Dodi H., B.S. Exercise Physiology, Assistant Fitness Director