Monitoring Heart Rate When Exercising

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One of the benefits of exercise is that it improves cardiovascular fitness. Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats in a minute and is an indicator of how hard your heart is working during exercise. Learning to monitor your heart rate will help ensure you are getting the most out of your workout without overdoing it.

At rest, the average heart beats around 50 to 90 times per minute. Very fit athletes tend to have lower heart rates, while those who smoke, are overweight or have high blood pressure have heart rates higher than normal.

There are several options for determining your heart rate, whether at rest or during exercise. You can use a heart monitor, which is a relatively inexpensive device that straps around your chest and registers a number to a wristwatch-like gadget.

For a cheaper alternative that is just as effective, gently place two fingers against the side of your neck, below your jawbone, until you feel a strong beat. You also can place two fingertips on the outer edge of an upturned hand, just below where the hand meets the wrist, until you feel a strong beat. Count the beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four to get your heart rate.

To make sure you are exercising properly, you will first need to calculate your maximum heart rate. This number is a guideline that suggests how hard your heart can possibly beat. Men simply subtract their age from 220. Women should subtract their age from 226. So a healthy, 30-year-old male would have a maximum heart rate of about 190. For a woman around the same age, that number would be 196.