Insights & Actions for Healthy Living

How do I calculate my heart rate so I know if I am getting all the benefits from my exercise program?

More people are becoming active and participating in a fitness program. In addition to eating a healthy diet without exceeding the number of calories you need each day, exercise will help you reach your health goals.

Because many are doing exercise with a goal of weight loss or heart health, it is important to know your heart rate numbers so you will gain the most you can from your efforts without overexertion.

We find our heart rate or pulse by counting our beats per minute. To measure your pulse, use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute.

Step 1 – find your resting heart rate by counting the number of heart beats in a minute while you are resting. You will get a more accurate number if you take it first thing in the morning while still in bed. The number is generally between 60-80 but could be different if you are fit (lower) or as you age (higher).

Step 2 – take your pulse randomly during your exercise routine. You want to stay in your target heart rate zone during exercise, which is between 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This range is the target heart rate you want to maintain during exercise. To find your maximum heart rate = 220 – your age.

In addition to checking your heart rate to measure your exercise success, you should also monitor your exertion by focusing on your breathing and ability to talk. You should be able to speak in a sentence and carry on a conversation for 10-20 seconds otherwise you may be overdoing it. Naturally, the harder you work, the more successful you will be but overworking can be harmful and increase your risk of injury.

Good luck and good health!

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