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Your Heart Rate – A Wealth of Information at Your Fingertips!

What is Heart Rate?
Your heart rate is simply the number of times you heart beats per minute (also know as your pulse).  It is a very accurate measurement of how hard you are working.

Why Should I Bother Checking My Heart Rate?
Knowing your heart rate will help you exercise safely and efficiently by determining how close you are to your target heart rate. It helps you maintain proper workout intensity by accurately assessing whether you need to “pick-up-the-pace” in the exercise routine of “back-off” a little if you are working too hard.  Checking and recording your heart rate will also help you determine your current fitness level and measure progress.

When Should I Check My Heart Rate?
You should check your heart rate before, during and after your workout to track your intensity level during exertion and your recovery afterward.

How Intense Should My Workout Be?
Moderate exercise for 30-minutes on most days is good for your heart and overall health.  Check your heart rate during exertion.  Your target rate is 60 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, (how much work your heart can handle).  It is a good way to gauge whether you are working out at a moderate pace.

Exercise makes your heat stronger so it doesn’t need to beat as often.  When you need to exercise more intensely to reach your target heart rate, it’s a sign that you’re becoming more fit.

Calculate your Target Heart Rate
Follow these steps to find your target heart rate.

Step One: First, calculate your maximum heat rate: 220 minus your age = your maximum heart rate.
Example: If you are age 40, you maximum heart rate is 180 beats per minute. (220 – 40 = 180)

Step Two: Calculate your target heart rate: Maximum heart rate X desired exercise intensity = target heart rate.
Example: If your maximum heart rate is 180 and you desire to workout at an intensity of 70%, your target heart rate will be 126 beats per minute. (180 x .70 = 126)

Heart Rate Matters
If you exercise at your target heart rate for at least 30-minutes on most days, you may:

Reduce the risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke; control your weight; lower cholesterol and high blood pressure; and reduce stress.  “Any exercise is better than none, however, exercising below the 60-percent level may not give your heart an adequate workout,” says Cedric Bryant, PhD, Chief Exercise Physiologist for the American Council on Exercise.

Appropriate Activities & Considerations
Walking briskly, bicycling, yoga, stair climbing, dancing, tennis, golf, swimming, and skiing are all moderately intense activities; however, doing any exercise that gets your heart pumping is a good start!  It is important to check with your doctor if you are considering an exercise program.  Your doctor may want to modify your target heart rate based on your situation and current medications you are taking.

Measure Your Heart Rate

Measure Your Heart Rate

To Measure Your Heart Rate:
Place your middle and index fingertips below the base of your thumb, between the bone and tendon at your wrist.  Or, place your fingers on the side of your neck beside your windpipe.  Watching a clock, count the number of beats you feel for 15-seconds.  Multiply the number by 4 to get your heart rate (beats per minute).  Or example, 20×4=80 beats per minute.  A resting heart rate that is between 60 and 80 beats per minute is considered normal.


This information was provided by HealthQuest Physical Therapy and Wellness Centers: Return to Work, Return to Life, Return to Play.  To learn more about HealthQuest Physical Therapy services and how we can help you recover from an on-the-job injury, regain your independence and get back to living your life, or return to the physical activities you love visit our website at

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Written by Brooks Juneau

October 7, 2009 at 4:08 pm

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