Why Monitor Your Heart Rate?
You're huffing and puffing through another
aerobic workout, wondering if you're really
doing yourself any good. Are you working
too hard or not hard enough?

You look around. The person next to you
has barely broken a sweat while the one in
front is drenched from head to toe. Well,
sweat may not be the best indicator of
exercise intensity. For that, we need to look
to our hearts.

Heart rates, to be exact. When you exercise, your heart beats faster to meet the
demand for more blood and oxygen by the muscles of the body. The more intense the
activity, the faster your heart will beat. Therefore, monitoring your heart rate during
exercise can be an excellent way to monitor exercise intensity.

For the majority of aerobic enthusiasts, there is a range of exercise intensities that is
described as safe and effective for promoting cardiovascular benefits. To determine
what range is best for you, you'll need to be familiar with a few terms.

1. Maximal heart rate:
This number is related to your age. As we grow older, our hearts start to beat a little
more slowly. To estimate your maximal heart rate, simply subtract your age from
the number 220.

2. Target heart-rate zone:
This is the number of beats per minute (bpm) at which your heart should be beating
during aerobic exercise. For most healthy individuals, this range is 50 to 80 percent
of your maximal heart rate. So, if your maximal heart rate is 180 bpm, the low end of
the range (50 percent) would be 90 bpm, and the high end of the range (80 percent)
would be 144 bpm.

What does this recommended heart-rate range mean?

Now that you've determined your target heart-rate zone, you need to know how to
put that information to good use. These numbers serve as a guideline - an indicator
of how hard you should be exercising.

Those just beginning an aerobic program should probably aim for the low end of the
zone and pick up the intensity as they become more comfortable with their
workouts. Those who are more fit, or are training for competitive events, may want
to aim for the higher end of the zone.

Keep in mind that the target heart-rate zone is recommended for individuals without
any health problems. Additionally, individuals taking mediction that alter the heart
rate should consult their physician for recommended exercise intensity.

Where to monitor?

There are a number of ''sites'' used to monitor the pulse rate. Two convenient sites to
use are the radial pulse at the base of the thumb of either hand, or the carotid pulse
at the side of the neck.

Accurate pulse-count assessment is crucial when monitoring exercise intensity. By
using the first two fingers of one hand and locating the artery, a pulse rate can be
easily determined.

Immediately after exercise, isolate your pulse and count the number of beats in a
10-second period. To determine the heart rate in beats per minute, multiply the
number of beats per 10 seconds by six. For instance, if a 10-second pulse count were
20, then the heart rate would be 120 bpm.

A final word about heart-rate monitoring

Remember, your estimated target heart-rate zone is just that - an estimate. If you feel
like you are exercising too hard, you probably are. The best advice is to reduce your
intensity and find a heart-rate range that works for you.

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