Exercise And Health: Use Your Heart Rate As A Guide

Armen Hareyan's picture
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Many people know that you can use your heart rate to monitor how hard you are exercising. But it can be used in other ways, too. "Your heart rate can give you an idea of the health of your cardiovascular system," says Stan Reents, PharmD, a certified personal trainer, fitness counselor, and tennis coach.

A person's heart rate increases as exercise intensity increases. By plugging their age into a simple formula, people can determine their "target" exercise heart rate, says Reents, author of the text "Sport and Exercise Pharmacology" and creator of www.AthleteInMe.com.

"Exercise heart rate tells how hard you are exercising, however, resting heart rate and recovery heart rate are better indicators of a person's health and fitness," according to Reents, who is a former health care professional.

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"Health care providers are taught that the normal resting heart rate is between 60-90 beats per minute, but, it's not uncommon for elite athletes to have resting heart rates as low as the mid-30's," says Reents. An example is cyclist Lance Armstrong whose resting heart rate was reported to be 32 beats per minute.

Recovery heart rate -- how long it takes for your heart rate to return to normal after you stop exercising -- is also an indication of your cardiovascular fitness. "An aerobically fit person will recover faster than a sedentary person," says Reents, who is a tennis player and has competed in triathlons.

"People need to be educated how to determine their resting and recovery heart rates, and then report that to their physician. If more people were aware that their heart rate provided such valuable information, then maybe we could reduce the number of deaths due to cardiovascular disease."

Since 1900, cardiovascular disease has been the #1 killer in the US every year except for 1918. Cardiovascular disease kills 10-12 times more women every year than does breast cancer.

AthleteInMe.com is a web site devoted to providing high-quality information on exercise, fitness, training, sports nutrition, and fitness gear for consumers and athletes. A thorough review of the relationship between exercise and heart rate can be found on the website in the story "Exercise and Heart Rate."

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