A healthy living blog from Marshfield Clinic

Heart rate: Monitor for safety AND success

man checking pulseYou’ve made the decision to start exercising regularly. Awesome. It’s no secret exercise is one of the best things you can do for your health.

You’re so motivated you have the essentials in order:

Running shoes? Check. Rockin’ iPod playlist? Check. Heart rate monitor? Hmmmm …

Although not necessary – yes, you can measure your heart rate manually – heart rate monitors offer a real-time look at your pulse that provides beneficial insights to enhance safety and success.

First, understand your target rate

One term you may hear your workout buddies talk about is hitting their “target heart rate.” This is the ideal heart rate you need to maintain during cardiovascular exercise to get the most out of your workout.

Use an online calculator to determine your target heart rate or do it manually:

  • Subtract your age from 220 to figure out your maximum heart rate.
  • For instance, if you’re 35, your maximum heart rate is 185 beats per minute.
  • Your target heart rate is 50-85 percent of that number, or 93 to 157 beats per minute. These numbers are based on a healthy adult.

Heart rate: Safety in numbers

Using heart rate monitors is a simple way to keep a close eye on your pulse during exercise. Most include a strap you wear around your chest. They measure your pulse, which is displayed often on a compatible watch or wristband.

Whether you’re an exercise rookie or experienced workout junkie, keeping your heart rate within a safe range is important to your health. If your heart rate is too high for too long it can lead to serious issues, including potential for suffering a heart attack.

“Common sense goes a long way and it’s important to rest if you feel you’re overworking yourself,” said Dr. Laurel Rudolph, director of Marshfield Clinic Sports Medicine. “But having a heart rate monitor gives you the reassurance that you’re not pushing too hard as you work to get in shape.”

Also, some people, including those who have certain heart conditions, may have exercise restrictions prescribed by their doctors. While they need to be active to maintain a healthy lifestyle, it may be important that their heart rates do not exceed a certain number of beats per minute.

Anyone with chronic medical issues should consult with his or her health care provider before beginning an exercise program.

Secret to success: Target heart rate

Let’s face it, when we’re working out we want to know we’re getting the benefits exercise enthusiasts and health care providers tout. A heart rate monitor is a simple way to measure success.

As you continue to exercise regularly, you’ll notice you can maintain your target heart rate for longer periods and that your resting heart rate is lower – both good things, Rudolph said.

If your goal is to lose weight, your heart rate needs to be at least 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate – 75-85 percent for an aerobic workout – therefore making a heart rate monitor that much more useful.

“A heart rate monitor is a simple way to know if you’re getting the workout you expect, in terms of intensity and duration,” Rudolph said. “For instance, you may not feel like you’re working hard, but your heart rate says otherwise – and vice versa.”

 

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