Most women who exercise and want to maintain a healthy heart rate know they need to measure their resting and maximum heart rates and track them during workouts.
It’s true that knowing how fast the heart is beating before, during, and after exercise can be helpful for women (especially heart patients or competitive athletes). But the truth is there’s a lot more to know about your heart rate and exercise than simply how fast your heart is beating.
In honor of Heart Health Month, we’re talking about everything you need to know about your healthy heart rate.
6 Things You Need to Know About Having a Healthy Heart Rate
Track your heart’s recovery rate after your workout.
Heart recovery rate is the speed at which your heart returns to normal after you stop exercising. The most important factor in heart rate reduction is what happens during the first minute after you stop exercising. Once you stop your workout, your heart rate should drop by about 20 beats during the first minute. People with a reduction of 12 or less are at a higher risk of suffering a heart attack later in life.
You don’t HAVE to monitor your heart rate everytime you exercise.
If you have heart disease and your doctor has cautioned you to avoid strenuous exercise, then monitoring your heart rate during workouts is an important way to avoid pushing your heart into the danger zone. If you’re a serious athlete (think: competitive runners, cyclists, etc.) monitoring your heart rate can help you track training and exercise to optimize aerobic fitness. But if you’re an every day woman who is exercising for general fitness and fat loss, tracking and monitoring your heart rate during workouts occasionally may be helpful. It’s not necessary for each and every workout.
Know your resting heart rate.
When you workout, your heart becomes stronger and more efficient. It pumps more blood each time it contracts and needs fewer beats per minute to do its job. A normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 90 beats a minute, and regular workouts can lower that rate by 10 to 20 beats per minute. Generally speaking, a lower resting heart rate is a good indicator of aerobic health and fitness.
Your heart changes as you age.
Did you know that your maximum heart rate declines with age? It’s true! Exertion makes your heart beat faster, and the greater the exertion, the faster your heart rate. Most doctors agree that there’s an upper limit on how fast your heart can beat, and that limit is affected by age. This upper limit, or maximum heart rate declines about seven beats per minute for each decade. If you’re unsure about your age-related decline in maximum heart rate, schedule an appointment with a physician.
Heart rate zones indicate intensity, not calories burned.
Many women believe the myth that moderate exercise promotes weight loss more effectively than vigorous exercise. Supposedly because it falls into the so-called “fat-burning zone.” But this is untrue. Weight loss is a matter of math–calories in versus calories out. To lose weight, you must burn more calories than you consume while keeping metabolic hormones balanced. And when it comes to burning calories, the greater the exertion, the greater the rate at which calories are burned. Working out at about 60% to 75% of your maximum heart rate (the so-called “fat-burning zone”) burns fewer calories than working out at 75% to 85% of your maximum heart rate (the so-called “aerobic” or “cardio” zone). But caloric burn depends on a workout duration as well as its intensity. And it’s easier to workout longer when exercising at a lower intensity, which is why many people promote the moderate intensity workouts as being more benefit for fat burning/weight loss. The moral of the story: combine both! Find an interval style workout (like our BeyondFit Life workouts) that gets your heart rate into both categories for a win-win!
Using a heart rate monitor can help boost your fitness level.
Although you don’t HAVE to monitor your heart rate during every exercise session, many women find it helpful to track their heart rate occasionally as they work on increasing their fitness levels. Electronic heart monitors can provide accurate, real-time heart rate information to help athletes pace themselves, or to simply help motivate you to exercise in a way that improves your heart. Can your workout plan lower your resting heart rate? Are you able to exercise at the same pace but get your heart to pump more slowly? Can you shorten the time it takes your heart rate to return to normal after a workout? These are all heart rate related goals that you can monitor over time.
Your Target Heart Rate During Your Workouts
When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? There’s a simple way to know: having a general target heart rate helps ensure that you’re not over-exercising at a dangerous level or under-exercising and failing to push yourself in your workout.
Before you learn how to calculate and monitor your target training heart rate, you have to know your resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. You can check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed.
According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate:
- for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 – 100 beats per minute
- for well-trained athletes is 40 – 60 beats per minute.
How to determine your target heart rate
Now you’re ready to determine your target training heart rate.
As you exercise, periodically:
- Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
- Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.
- Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. Generally, you want to stay between 60-70% percent of your maximum heart rate. You may drop as low as 50% during resting phases of your workout, or work as hard as 85% of your maximum heart rate during the most intense phases of your BeyondFit Life workout. This range is your target heart rate.
F.A.Q. Healthy Heart Rate Questions from our BeyondFit Life Members
Q: In regards to high intensity workouts, do you have a “target heart rate” for us or a range to stay in? Or is this more of an individual thing?
A: Everyone’s different, but in general, you’d want to figure out your max heart rate (Max Heart Rate = 220 – your age). And then determine your target heart rate range. There’s no “magic” number. In fact, I personally liked looking at the VO2 max of clients when I was in the research setting. It’s a little bit more accurate than heart rate in terms of what’s giving you the most fat-burning “bang” for your buck.
According to the American College of Sports Medicine exercise at 60% of VO2 max corresponds with a heart rate that is 75% of maximum. In addition, exercise at 80% of VO2 max corresponds with 88% of maximum heart rate. EPOC, or excess post exercise oxygen consumption is what we are looking for when we look at someone’s VO2 max. And it basically just refers to the higher metabolic rate that lasts after their workout is over. Research shows that results from this hormonal “after-burn,” which is generated when exercisers are working at or near 100% of their V02 Max (aka they are breathless), can last up to 24-48 hours beyond the actual workout.
In addition, studies show these results can be seen in bouts of effort as short as 1-5 minutes. Rather than being linked to duration, the amount of EPOC you experience is actually directly linked to the intensity of your workout. Shorter duration workouts allow you to increase the intensity and get that heart rate up as high as possible so that you are able to take full advantage of EPOC and it’s hormonal after-burn, burning fat long after your workout is over.
Q: How do you balance heavier lifting with keeping your heart rate in check? There are times where I feel like I need to increase my weight, but hesitate, because I’ll have less than 3 rounds or because my heart rate is already too high and I’m ‘pausing’ more than I’d like. I know that when by HR is too high I end up with migraines regardless of hydration.
A: Good for you for listening to your body! The BeyondFit workouts were designed for you to work hard, rest, and repeat. So don’t hesitate to use those heavy weights and pause or rest as needed. If you notice any of the following during a high intensity workout, be sure to rest and consult your doctor.
- Shortness of breath.
- Rapid pulse rate.
- Heart palpitations — a racing, uncomfortable or irregular heartbeat or a sensation of “flopping” in the chest.
- Chest pain.
Q: What heart rate monitors/devices do you recommend?
A: I shared some of my favorite fitness trackers, like the Fitbit Charge HR 2 here. You can also check your heart rate any time using the Heart Rate app on an apple watch, or use a Polar Heart Rate monitor with a heart rate chest strap.
Shop a few of my favorites:
Take care of your heart this month by joining the BeyondFit Life Club today. Your membership gives you immediate access to LIVE online support and unlocks dozens of fat-loss BONUSES which will transform your fitness and nutrition!
The BeyondFit Life member site is a goldmine of information that expand on what you’ve learned here: everything you need to succeed with fat-loss, training and smart nutrition. Discover the tips and tricks which make up that elusive final 10% which will take you beyond traditional training and nutrition.