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Pump Up Your Workout with Heart Rate Tracking

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Pump Up Your Workout with Heart Rate Tracking

The frequency, duration and intensity of your exercise all factor into the effectiveness of your workout program. While you can easily track frequency and duration, determining the intensity of your workout can be a bit more challenging. That's where heart rate tracking comes into play.

"Monitoring your heart rate during aerobic activity is one of the best ways to evaluate if you are working hard enough or even working too hard," explains Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Angela Horner

The higher the exercise intensity, the higher your heart rate will be. Horner and Cooper Fitness Center Professional Fitness Trainer Ryan Sheppard explain heart rate monitoring and how it relates to fitness performance.

What is heart rate monitoring?

Heart rate monitoring is a way of measuring how a particular exercise or workload is affecting heart rate. It can be measured using a wearable device or through sensors on a cardio machine, which provides the heart’s beats per minute (bpm). Heart rate can also be taken manually on your wrist or neck—simply count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by four to give a beats per minute prediction. 

There are five heart rate zones, each corresponding to the intensity and benefit of performing work or exercise in that zone.

Heart rate indicates overall fitness

“Typically, a lower resting heart rate (60 bpm or lower) indicates a well-conditioned heart,” says Sheppard. “The more efficient a heart is, the less work it has to do for a given workload, so it beats fewer times per minute.” 

Additionally, the ability to recover and lower your heart rate quickly after an intense bout of exercise is a sign of great fitness. Tracking your heart rate over time and during various types of exercise can give you good indication on improvements you might be making in your overall fitness level.

What is the relationship between heart rate and exercise?

“Getting the heart rate up gives us cardiovascular benefit,” explains Sheppard. “We want to make sure your heart rate reaches a certain range for maximum benefit.” To determine your maximum heart rate, adjusted for resting heart rate, follow this formula:

(220 – age – resting heart rate) x percent of maximum heart rate + resting heart rate

For example, say James is 24 years old, has a resting heart rate of 65 bpm and wants to work out between 60 and 80 percent of maximum heart rate.

(220 – 24 – 65) x (.60) + 65 = 144
(220 – 24 – 65) x (.80) + 65 = 170

According to the formula, James should maintain a target heart rate between approximately 140 and 170 bpm to reach 60 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate while exercising.

"If you calculate your heart rate and find it only gets to about 50 percent of your max heart rate, it might be time to step up your exercise routine," explains Horner. "Try upping your walking speed, use the incline on the treadmill or try a different mode of cardio such as elliptical or bike to raise your heart rate to a higher percentage, say 60-70 percent." 

Horner says studies show intense aerobic exercise (60-85 percent of your max heart rate) is required to effect a positive change. This type of intense aerobic exercise can have a positive impact on your weight and lowering blood pressure and blood sugar, among other benefits.

Using heart rate monitoring during a workout

Sheppard notes it is important to stay within your determined heart rate ranges and build time within that range. Don’t be too aggressive and go outside of the range, or you will fatigue too quickly when trying to build aerobic endurance. Establish a goal to get 30-60 minutes of exercise in your recommended heart rate range.

“The actual exercises appropriate for each individual vary widely because of fitness levels and other limitations a person might have,” says Sheppard. “Monitoring a client's heart rate during exercise allows us know how the client’s heart is actually recovering instead of giving an arbitrary recovery time.” 

Most importantly, make sure your body is ready before you take your workout to the next level. 

"If you are looking to increase the intensity of your workout, always check with your physician and start slow," says Horner. "Remember, Rome wasn't built in a day!

After you exercise it is important to safely lower your heart rate. 

To safely lower heart rate, Sheppard recommends walking or performing any movement slowly. 

Cooper Fitness Center offers heart rate tracking for members. For more information about personal training at Cooper Fitness Center, visit or call 972.233.4832.