Why should I be aware of my heart rate during my workout and at rest?
- Why should I be aware of my heart rate during my workout and at rest?
During the workout
This is important for several reasons. Firstly, heart rate at any given time is highly correlated with how much oxygen our body is utilizing. For example, as the intensity of exercise increases, our active tissues need to use up more oxygen to be able to maintain the same work output and as a result heart rate will also increase to be able to help our tissues meet its oxygen demands.
Secondly, we are able to use our heart rate during exercise to help us choose which energy system we’d like to challenge during exercise. For example, heart rate max is calculated as 220 – age. Exercising approximately at an intensity of 50 – 70% of heart max is challenging the aerobic system, 70-85% challenges the glycolytic system and exercising at an intensity above 85-90% is challenging the anaerobic system.
To get health benefits and sometimes to even help maintain fitness it’s appropriate to exercise at 50-70% heart rate max. However, if one is trying to improve their fitness level it’s important to exercise in the 70-85% HR max range and above. Overall, intensity is the most important thing when exercising to improve fitness and sometimes as we exercise we might feel really tired but our heart rate can always confirm how hard we really are working.
It’s also important to see how long it takes to bring your heart rate back down towards resting levels after doing an exercise. How quickly the heart rate recovers is indicative of our cardio respiratory fitness. The better this system is the quicker the heart rate goes back down towards resting levels. Therefore this is an important thing to monitor through your exercise program.
The more one exercises and the more one improves their general fitness their resting heart rate will slowly start to go down. This means that per beat the heart is able to pump more blood through the arteries and as a result doesn’t have to work as hard to provide adequate oxygen to active tissues.
For example, when looking at two 20 year olds, one having a resting heart rate of 60 beats/min and the other having 80 beats/min the first individual will be able to increase their heart rate another 140 beats before reaching their estimated heart rate max whereas the second individual can only increase by 120. This 20 beats/min is big enough to be meaningful difference.