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Guide to Optimum Heart Beat Levels for Optimal Cardiovascular Fitness
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Heart Rate and Exercise

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Heart Rate and Exercise Fitness Workout

Target Heart Rate During Exercise

Raised Heart Rate Improves Cardio Fitness

In order to improve cardiovascular fitness and make your heart stronger, you need to do regular cardio-aerobic exercise. Point is, regular cardio training makes the heart and lungs work harder, causing them to become more efficient in delivering oxygen-rich blood around the body.

Question: How hard do you have to exercise to make your heart healthier?

Answer: Hard enough to maintain your heart-beat rate within your Target Heart Rate Zone.

Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during running, swimming, cycling and other aerobic activities. Exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for 20 minutes won't contribute significantly to cardiovascular fitness.

What is Target Heart Rate?

For optimal cardio fitness, the heart rate you should maintain while exercising is called your Target Heart Rate. There are several ways of calculating the range or zone within which your target heart rate should be.

Target Heart Rate is Percentage of Maximum Heart Rate

In simple terms, a person's correct heart rate (for optimum cardiovascular benefits) is a percentage of their maximum heart rate. For moderate-intensity physical activity, a person's target heart rate should be 50-70 percent of their maximum heart rate. For vigorous-intensity physical activity, the figure is 70-85 percent.

How to Calculate Target Heart Rate?

A person's maximum heart rate is their age subtracted from 220. Thus the maximum heart rate for a 35 year old is 185 (220 minus 35).

  • For moderate-intensity physical activity, a 35 year old should maintain a target heart rate of between 92 and 129 beats per minute. (Lower limit is calculated by multiplying max heart rate 185 by 0.5; upper-limit by multiplying 185 by 0.7)

  • For vigorous-intensity physical activity, a 35 year old should maintain a target heart rate of between 129 and 157 beats per minute.

How to Monitor Heart Rate During Exercise?

To check whether you are exercising within the heart rate target zone, stop exercising briefly to take your pulse. Take your pulse within five seconds of stopping your workout routine, otherwise it falls too low. You can take the pulse at the neck, the wrist, or the chest. The wrist is best. Search for the radial pulse on the artery of the wrist. Place the tips of the index and middle fingers over the artery and press lightly. Take a 10-second count of the heartbeats, then multiply by 6 to obtain your rate per minute.

Use a Portable Heart Monitor

If you are interested in monitoring your cardiovascular fitness, a heart-rate monitor is the easiest and most accurate way to measure your heart rate while performing an exercise workout. It consists of a chest strap transmitter which is worn around the chest across the heart. The transmitter detects the heart-beat rather like an electro-cardiogram. The heart-rate is relayed to a display unit which is worn on the wrist, like a wristwatch. Some heart rate monitors transmit the results orally via earphones (eg. Heartalker models).

Recommended Brand of Heart Rate Monitor

Polar® is a world famous supplier of heart recording equipment. The Polar® A Series of heart rate monitors is good for beginners and is designed for easy integration into everyday exercise. Price Guide: $50.00-$100.00

Sources include:
President's Council on Physical Fitness and Sports

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