Have a Heart… Rate

If you spend any time at all doing cardio, you will eventually- if not immediately- hear the words “heart rate” as a point of interest or focus.  Anyone would figure that it’s important.  Afterall, if your heart rate is zero, that means you are personally extinct.  It stands to reason then that it should factor heavily in the pursuit of personal health and fitness.  Beyond the reality that zero is very very bad, you might be foggy on how the heart rate figures into the fitness equation.  For instance, your heart monitor might tell you that you achieved an average heart rate of 145 during a 30-minute workout.  Is that good?  The answer is: for some, yes, and others, no.

Setting that question aside, the most basic thing you need to know is that “heart rate” measures the number of times your heart beats in a minute.  The most important thing for you to understand about heart rate is that there is an aerobic heart rate range you must work within in order to benefit your body.  If you are below that range, you are not accomplishing much.  If you are above that range for an extended period of time, then you are probably doing more harm than good.  For most people, the range is generally considered to be 60-85% of your maximum heart rate.  For those who are severely overweight or in poor shape, the actual range might be 50-65% of your max.  Your next question is probably: “How do you determine maximum heart rate?”  (Yes, I am reading your mind.)

A lot of sources will tell you that they have a formula that you can use to reveal your max heart rate, but the reality is that the only totally reliable method is to seek a cardiac stress test from a qualified professional.  Being on the cheaper side of life, I am comfortable with just using formulas, so I will share.  The most basic formula is to subtract your age from either 220 (for men) or 226 (for women).  A more complicated formula incorporates your average resting heart rate, and that can be found here.  While I am comfortable basing my own cardio range targets on the most basic formula, be aware that this formula does not apply to at least 30-40% of the population. It needs to be further stressed that if you are overweight, have otherwise been sedentary for an extended period of time, or have other preexisting conditions to contend with, then you should get tested by a professional before launching into a new cardio program.

Once you determine your max heart rate and your personal target range, you can have all kinds of fun with heart rate information.  (I might be exaggerating a little.)  You can determine and record your recovery heart rate, which you measure two minutes after you complete a workout.  You can measure and record your morning resting heart rate when you first wake up.  With the proper monitor, you can record your average heart rate during each workout.  Each of these suggestions are ways to measure progress and stay motivated.

So go out and get yourself a good heart rate monitor, and then go get in your zone!

Wednesday, June 22nd, 2011 Fitness & Wellness

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