There is no question that exercise is important. But what many people do not know is that monitoring the heart rate during exercise is crucial to meeting exercise goals and avoiding injury. The heart rate is a measurement of how many times the heart beats during a period of time. This period is typically measured in minutes, thus the measurement of beats per minute (bpm).
While at rest, the heart typically beats between 60 – 90 bpm, although people who exercise regularly often have slower resting heart rates. When exercising, you should work to reach a target heart rate that is 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. The maximum heart rate is the highest that your pulse can get and is measured with the following equation:
220 – your age = estimated maximum heart rate
This rate will vary depending on the person’s age and physical condition. For instance, a person taking certain medicines, such as high blood pressure medications, or someone with a medical condition, will have a revised maximum heart rate. Always make sure to check with your doctor to determine the best and healthiest heart rate range for you.
A heart rate monitor is a great tool to help you stay in your target range (or “safe rate”) when exercising. Including it in your exercise routine will help you to ensure that you are meeting your goals and staying within your limits. Wearing a watch heart rate monitor during exercise will provide you with constant feedback so that you can be sure that you are working at a level that provides you the greatest benefit. For instance, a person who wants to lose weight will work at a lower heart rate than someone looking to increase stamina and endurance.
The American Heart Association has a number of suggestions for ways to increase activity, as well as a helpful table listing target heart rates for various ages.
If you have been sedentary for awhile, or are just starting an exercise routine, you will likely have to start out slowly and work up to a higher level heart rate. Using a heart rate monitor during exercise will allow you to read your heart rate within seconds so that you know if you need to increase your level of activity. Do not exceed your target rate as doing so increases the possibility of injury. If your monitor shows that you have moved above your target heart rate zone, slow down so that it can normalize.