Monitoring Your Heart Rate

a caveman is monitoring his heart rate
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Monitoring your heart rate during a workout helps determine when you are exercising at the optimum pace.

Heart rate is the number of times the heart beats per minute. It is also referred to as your pulse. The heart rate can be monitored either by using a heart rate monitor or by taking it manually.

Why You Should Monitor Your Heart Rate

Our ancestors certainly were aware of changes in heart rate, because of the very physical lifestyle they lived. They would have been concerned about a heart that was beating too fast or not fast enough.

Today, the most common non-medical reason for monitoring heart rate is during exercise. The number of beats per minute can reveal whether the heart is getting a healthy workout.

In fact, heart rate is a better indicator of how hard you are working out than the amount of weight lifted, number of reps, distance covered or time elapsed. For example, it takes more effort to run outside on a hot, humid day than to run the same distance on a treadmill in an air-conditioned gym.

When pulse is monitored over time, the exerciser can see the improvement in heart rate. Initially, it is much harder for the body to meet the demands for oxygen and blood, so the heart has to work harder. But as one’s fitness level improves the demands decrease, and so does the heart rate.

It is also important to check your resting heart rate, which is the number of times your heart beats per minute while you are at rest. The resting heart rate can drop by as much as 20 beats per minute after just a couple of months of regular exercise.

Taking Your Heart Rate

A manual pulse reading can be very inaccurate, so it’s something you will want to practice. The wrist is the easiest place to take your pulse. Look for the bluish line, which is your radial artery and rest your middle and index fingertips lightly on top of it. Now count the beats for 60 seconds. During a workout, it’s advisable to take your pulse every 15-20 minutes.

When an electronic heart monitor is used, the heart rate can be continuously tracked without interrupting exercise. This is by far the most accurate method of taking your pulse. Various heart monitor machines are available that offer a number of different functions. The chest strap monitor, which uses the same principle as an ECG machine, provides the most accurate reading, while the wrist model is the most convenient.

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