There are 2 Simple ways to use heart rate to track fitness progress:
The start of a new year is often a time when people will start a new fitness or health goal. One important factor that aids in meeting goals is having a way to measure progress. Heart rate can be a simple metric to help measure progress of a fitness program and can serve as an indicator of cardiovascular health.
Tracking heart rate can be as simple as finding your pulse in your neck (carotid artery) or wrist (the radial artery) and using a stopwatch. Count the number of beats for one full minute or count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by 6 for an estimate. The old fashioned way works great but today fitness trackers, fitbits, heart rate monitors, even apps on our phones can help measure our heart rate.
Here are 2 ways that heart rate can be utilized to keep you on track for your fitness goals:
1 - Measure heart rate recovery 1, 2
-Heart rate recovery is defined as how long it takes your heart rate to return to baseline following a bout of exercise. This is a measure of how well your nervous system regulates your heart.
-Perform a baseline workout - walk for 20 minutes, run 2 miles, take a spin class. Pick something that can be repeated after a few months of training.
-Following exercise rest quietly for 1 minute and then take your heart rate and take it again each minute until it returns to your resting heart rate.
-At one minute heart rate should decrease by 12 beats per minute or greater.
2 - Calculate your target training zone.
Here is a link with a calculator for target heart rate:
As an example:
A 40 year old with a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute wants to train between 70 and 80% of his max heart rate.
220-40 = 180 (max HR)
180 (max HR) - 70 (resting HR)= 110
110 x .7 = 77 + 70 = 147
110 x .8 = 88 + 70 = 158
Target training zone using = 147 to 158 beats per minute.
This calculation is based on age and resting heart rate to determine an appropriate training zone to improve aerobic capacity. This method known as the “Karvonen Formula” is a simple estimate that is correlated to VO2 max which is considered the gold standard measurement of aerobic capacity.
The American Heart Association makes recommendations for amount of exercise. For moderate intensity 50-70% of max heart rate and vigorous intensity 70-85%. Keep track of the amount of time you spend exercising in the target zone!
If you have any previous heart conditions or issues consult with your doctor or physical therapist before starting any new exercise program. If you have questions or want to learn more about how to start a new exercise program we can help with that too! If we can help you conquer any barriers that prevent you from reaching your fitness and health goals come see us!
Check in next week and Gerry from Challenger Strength will share is insight on how he helps his athletes and clients improve their cardiovascular fitness.
1 - Cole CR, Blackstone EH, Pashkow FJ, Snader CE, Lauer MS. Heart-rate recovery
immediately after exercise as a predictor of mortality. N Engl J Med. 1999 Oct
2 - Jolly MA, Brennan DM, Cho L. Impact of exercise on heart rate recovery.
Circulation. 2011 Oct 4;124(14):1520-6. doi: 10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.110.005009.
Epub 2011 Sep 26.