Our heart rate is getting a lot more attention these days thanks to the proliferation of fancy fitness trackers and smart watches. But how much do you really understand about the essential organ hammering away in your chest and what the info those products are telling you about it?
Like, what is a normal resting heart rate? And, what should your heart rate be during a workout? Plus, what are the benefits of tracking your heart rate?
Understanding how to train your heart in a workout is vital, so here we’re answering all your questions about heart health and exercise.
Resting heart rate
Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while your body is at rest and it’s a good gauge of your overall health. For the majority of people, your resting heart rate will sit between 60 and 100 beats per minute (BPM). But this number can be influenced by a range of factors including your physical fitness level, health conditions, medication, stress level, body size, age, air temperature and even the position your body is in when you measure your heart rate.
A lower resting heart rate is generally better as it indicates that your heart doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat and pump blood around the body. Studies show that a higher resting heart rate is associated with lower physical fitness, higher blood pressure and higher body weight. Athletes, for example, often have much lower resting heart rates – sometimes as low as 40 beats per minute.
Although a healthy resting heart rate differs widely from person to person, a consistently, unusually high or low heart rate can also be a sign of an underlying medical condition. Chat to your doctor if your heart rate is regularly above 100 beats per minute or if it’s below 60 beats per minute (and you’re not a trained athlete). Especially if you’re experiencing symptoms like dizziness, fainting and shortness of breath.
How do you measure your resting heart rate?
“You will get more out of your workouts by understanding your heart rate, and zones which you need to play within,” Men’s Health Fitness Director Todd Liubinskas says. “Any wearable tech on the market will be able to monitor and record results effectively.”
While most smart watches and fitness trackers come with an in-built heart rate monitor so you can easily keep tabs on it, if you want to calculate it the old fashion way, all you need to do is find your pulse and do a bit of counting. Find a time when you are relaxed and inactive (just as you wake up is a good option) and place your index and middle finger on the inside of your wrist or either side of your neck. Count the number of beats for 30 second and double it. That is your resting heart rate.
Why do you want to increase your heart rate during exercise?
Although you want your resting heart rate to be on the lower end of the scale, you need to be reaching a higher heart rate during exercise for the biggest and best health benefits. Getting your heart beating faster than its resting rate improves your cardiovascular health, helping your heart to move blood and oxygen to your muscles more efficiently. This process also burns calories, helping with metabolism and weight loss.
How do you measure your maximum heart rate?
As a general rule of thumb to find your ideal maximum heart rate (MHR) just subtract your age from 220. For example, if you’re 35 your maximum heart rate would be 185 BPM. This guide can help you set a target heart rate to aim for each time you workout.
Target Heart Rate
Target Heart Rate range is one way that you can measure your exercise intensity.
There are three main heart rate training zones you can aim for:
- Low intensity: 50-75% of your MHR
- Moderate intensity: 75-85% of your MHR
- High or vigorous intensity: 85% of your MHR and above of MHR
Target Heart Rate Zone 50-85%
Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%
Australian Physical Activity and Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines recommend that for good health, you should aim for at least 30 minutes of moderate intensity physical activity on most days.
What is the best way to hit your Target Heart Rate?
Anaerobic training is the best form of training to maintain an effective Target Heart Rate within a workout. Anaerobic exercise is a physical exercise intense enough to cause lactate to form. These include any exercises involve short bursts of high-intensity movement like sprinting, jumping and heavy weight training.
At a basic level the higher the exercise intensity, the higher your heart rate will be.
High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) is a popular way to effectively exercise (and increase your heart rate), alternating between short work intervals hitting 70 to 90 percent of your max heart rate, and rest periods, lowering to 60 to 65 percent of your max heart rate. This style of training boots your heart rate up and burns more calories than you would during a steady-state moderate-intensity workout.
RELATED: How To Improve Your Heart Health
Heart pumping workout
Men’s Health Fitness Director Todd Liubinskas has designed a simple heart pumping workout to help your your target bpm.
5 rounds of the following:
Work for 50 seconds
Rest for 10 seconds
- Jump Squat
- Bear Crawl two metres up and back
- Jump Squat
So, you complete your burpees, rest for 10 seconds, then move onto the jump squats, rest for 10 seconds, etc.
“Try this one and a great way to test if you are getting “fitter” would be to count your reps on each movement, and give yourself the test each week,” Todd says. “If your score increases, you are getting fitter, if it stays the same, you may have to work a little harder in your training outside of the test.”
“On the days when it’s an easy workout, monitor heart rate to make sure you aren’t going over 75%. On the days where it should be harder for you, try and keep pushing to make sure you stay in that optimal zone of 85% and above.”