If you’ve ever worked out on a modern exercise machine, you know that they give you a place where you can put your finger and get your current heart rate. While it’s interesting information to have, it doesn’t mean much if you don’t understand how heart rate affects your workout. I’m sure you know that you heart rate being too high is bad for you for obvious reasons, but that doesn’t often stop people from pushing themselves to their upper limit because they think they get a better workout.
In actuality, your workout is less effective when you’re overdoing it. Keeping it within a safe range that was designed specifically for your purposes is way more effective for getting what you want out of your workout.
Obviously, the target heart rate is going to be different for everything, and about a thousand different things can impact what your heart rate should be when you’re working out. If you have a history of any kind of serious health problem, you probably want to talk to your doctor before starting a program to make sure that you won’t hurt yourself by working out.
If you’re taking medication, there are additional things to be concerned about. For instance, there are medications that are more likely to make people dizzy, and that can be dangerous when you’re exercising. There are medications that are used to control heart rate, and those can present additional complications for those who want to safely workout without stressing out their already fragile hearts.
What You Should Listen For
The first thing you need to know is your natural resting heart rate. This is the rate at which your heart beats when it has not been doing anything strenuous for quite a long period of time. The best time to check resting heart rate is right before you get out of bed in the morning.
In general, resting heart rate among healthy people is between 60 to 80 beats per minute. If you’re particularly fit, it could be less than that. The importance of this number is that it tells you when you are on track with your fitness program. If your resting heart rate was 75 beats per minute when you started getting in shape and is now 60 beats per minute, that means that you have actually made your heart stronger through the work that you’re doing.
If you have medical problems and you’re taking medication, then you might not have the same kind of resting heart beat as could be expected in a person without any limitations. This is definitely something to talk over with your doctor to make sure that you’re not putting yourself under too much stress when you exercise.
What Affects Your Heart Rate
Once you know your resting heart rate, you have a pretty good idea of how your heart works when there is nothing going on. Keep in mind though that age, gender and health all impact your heart rate in one way or another.
Age and Heart Rate
As you get older, your heart becomes physically less able to pump blood through it at the speeds that it did when you were younger. Because of that, the maximum heart rate that should be allowed when you’re working out is much lower when you’re 80 than it would have been when you were 20.
Gender and Heart Rate
Women, in general, have higher heart rates than men because they have smaller bodies that require the heart to move faster to move blood through their systems. A woman who is average size and height with average muscle mass is likely to have a higher resting heart rate than a man of the same situation. It’s not a negative thing, and women react to cardio and muscle building the same way men do. That is to say, as a woman builds her strength, she will lower her resting heart rate.
Health and Heart Rate
It’s hard to say how your health will affect your heart rate, but it is safe to say that you should never guess at what is going to happen. If you have had medical issues recently or in the past, then it’s best to let a professional decide if your heart is strong enough to manage.
When you’ve been sick or you have been taking medications, your body is going to react in unpredictable ways. This doesn’t mean that you have done anything wrong, but it does mean that we can’t be sure what is going to happen with you because everyone is different.
You Have a Baseline. What’s Your Maximum?
The baseline allows you to figure out what your range for working out is. We know the low end of your heart rate, so what should be the high end?
When you’re trying to remember what your maximum heart rate should be, you calculate like this: 220 – (your age) = Heart Rate Maximum
For instance, a 56-year-old would calculate 220 – 56 = 164. That means that, when working at at the hardest that the body should comfortably manage, a 56-year-old shouldn’t let his or her heart rate go over 164 beats per minute.
On the other hand, an 18-year-old can get away with much more. In this case, it would be 220 – 18 = 202.
Get Started But Soon
Before you start a workout program, it’s probably a good idea to do some heart rate monitoring just to make sure that everything is working correctly. Take a minute to look up the best way to check your pulse, and then check it when you wake up and after a stressful day or during the busy part of your morning.
Pay attention for chest pains or anything that feels uncomfortable when you’re working hard. Once you have that information, you’ll know pretty well if you fall in the “normal” range, and you can hit the gym and get started getting shredded.