Understanding your heart rate can go a long way to making decisions on the best way to undertake a fitness/exercise program. 

Some of the key questions that come up time and again are:

What is the best heart rate to maintain so that I burn fat while creating a fit body?

What does my “Resting” heart rate tell me?

What makes my heart rate elevate?

Being able to understand the answers to the above questions can go a long way to your maintaining a healthy and fit life.

Maximum heart rate is the highest beats per minute your heart can achieve. It is not sustainable since it is an all-out effort. It is essential to know your personal maximum heart rate in order to calculate effective target heart rates to use during exercise.  The more fit you become the more work you can do at your maximum heart rate. This means you will be biking, swimming or running faster with improved fitness.

Maximum heart rate is not correlated to fitness level. The amount of work you can do at your maximum heart rate is the thing that is related to your fitness level.

 What Is Your Target Heart Rate?

Mathematically it is the range between 70 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.  Age is also a factor but remember that the maximum heart rate tells us nothing about how fit you actually are.  Which is why some people consult a physician to undergo a stress test. As a result, physicians are usually focused on looking for heart disorders such as arrhythmias and or changes in your EKG that suggest problems.

You need to advocate for yourself here and let your doctor know that you would like to know what your maximum heart rate is and what your optimal heart rate range is for exercise. During this test, you are hooked up to 12 electrode leads and put through a graded exercise test. "Graded" means that the work you are doing is increased every minute or so until either you get too tired to continue or your doctor stops the test. Since this test actually measures your individual heart rate response to exercise, your real maximum heart rate can then be determined.

Using the information gathered from the results of your stress test you can now have reliable “peak” performance goal to work towards.  Also remember that no one can maintain their peak heart rate performance for long. The best athletes in their best condition should only be able to perform at their peak heart rate for no more than 3-4 minutes. 

What Does My Resting Heart Rate Tell Me?

Resting Heart Rate varies from person to person, but according to the American Heart Association, the average resting pulse should be between 60-80 beats per minute (BPM). 68-80 BPM is by no means the only place a healthy person’s pulse can be. For athletes or people who often perform cardiovascular activity, “a normal resting heart rate may be closer to 40 beats a minute” [1], with the most noted example being that Lance Armstrong reportedly had a resting pulse of 32 BPM when he was in peak conditioning.

The more you work out the lower your resting pulse is, and the lower your resting pulse is the less hard your heart has to work. The best way to think about this is to view your heart as a muscle, and the more you work it the stronger it gets. A stronger heart means more blood with each beat, and the same amount of work can be done with fewer beats. If your heart needs more beats to do the same amount of work, over time this can lead to cardiovascular disease and/or heart attacks.

 What Makes My Heart Rate Elevate?

High Heart Rate We all know the feeling of a high heart rate – when our hearts are beating hard and fast in our chest.

A high heart rate can be due to many factors, such as physical activity, panic, stress, or anxiety. In order to accurately measure your heart rate, you will need to measure it while you are in a relaxed, resting state.

A great activity monitor to stay on top of your game is the Fitbit Surge “Super Watch” this watch will do everything you are looking for in a heart rate monitor and more…From naturally keeping track of your heart rate and alerting you to milestones to keeping you on track if you go “Off Roads” on your running or hiking event.

 Take advantage of all the data you will accumulate by using a device such as this and use that information to keep your body performing at it’s peak!

Excerpts for this blog were taken from: 

http://www.canyonranch.com/  - By Mike Siemens, Director of Exercise Physiology