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Your buddy challenged you to a workout consisting of one-too-many burpees and a whole lot of barbell thrusters. When you’ve finished it and you’re laying on the ground dripping sweat, you can’t help but notice that it feels like your heart is beating out of your chest. Normal? Sure. Buddy, you’ve just exerted an exorbitant amount of effort. But experience that same type of pounding hanging out at your desk before that lunchtime meeting, and then you’ve got something to worry about. A healthy resting heart rate, or how fast the muscle is beating when your body is at rest, can tell us a lot of things.
Generally speaking, an average resting heart rate ranges between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). For athletes, that number can dip a tad lower, down into the 50s or even 40s.
“When your heart beats faster or slower, it can be related to a number of different conditions,” says Dr. Jonathan Whiteson, Medical Director for the cardiac and pulmonary rehab program at NYU Langone Health. “Some are benign or others indicate something more serious. For instance, if someone jumps out from behind a bush, your heart rate would go up—that’s normal. When you’re sleeping your heart rate may go down to 55, and that’s because you’re relaxed. That’s still normal.”
When you exert yourself, your heart rate will rise. Generally, the formula to find your maximum heart rate during exercise would be subtracting your age from 220. So, for a 30-year-old man, his max heart rate would be 190. You’ve probably seen a whole lot about desired heart rate zones for max calorie burn at the gym, yeah? Well, that heart rate zone is roughly 60 to 80 percent of that max number. Again with the 30-year-old, he’d be aiming to workout somewhere in the 114 to 152 bpm range.
So when do you need to be concerned around your heart rate? Whiteson stresses that there are a lot of factors that can impact it (medications, stress) so the first thing to address is how you feel. “If your heart rate suddenly drops down and is slow or is shooting through the roof, then you could pass out,” he says. “You could feel light-headed and dizzy. Still, some people may feel fine. And if so, that means that hemodynamically the blood supply to the brain and kidneys and liver is going fine.”
These days, it’s more common than ever to strap on some type of wearable fitness tracker, both during exercise and throughout your day-to-day. Many of these offer heart rate monitoring. Good for raising awareness of what your typical heart rate could be? Sure. But Whiteson stresses that it’s important to really think about how you feel during the day.
“There’s a good correlation between someones rate of perceived exertion and heart rate,” he says. “So many times we want people to know not just to rely on the heart rate, but also know what type of exercise intensity they are experiencing. In terms of words, we encourage people to exercise at an intensity that they would categorize as ‘somewhat hard.’ If we look at light, heavy, or severe, ‘somewhat hard’ is in the middle of light and heavy. That correlates well with a training heart rate.” Whiteson’s team encourages patients to ask themselves the following during exercise: Does this feel easy? If it does, you’re not working hard enough. Otherwise, ask: Does it feel so heavy you feel uncomfortable? Are you getting dizzy? Then you’re working too hard.
Thinking about getting better acquainted with your heart rate? Check out some of our favorite products toting HRM capabilities, here:
Heart Rate Monitors Worth Trying
Apple Watch Series 3
This is the watch for the guy that wants to rock a wearable all of the time. The Apple Watch Series 3 tracks way more than just heart rate, from steps and elevation to calories burned and everything in between during a workout, and also enables the wearer to listen to 40 million songs right from his wrist. Beyond the workout, you can enjoy the cellular-enabled device, which means you can leave your phone at home and still receive calls, texts, and emails. It doesn’t hurt that there is a watch band for every taste and style either.
$359.00 at Amazon.com
Fitbit Charge 2
Ideal for the guy who doesn’t want anything bulky on his wrist, this pick is great considering its less-than-$150 price tag (compared to $299 for their flagship GPS watch, the Fitbit Ionic). The Charge has sensors that know when you’re in the middle of a workout and also guided breathing sessions when it can sense you might need to calm down during a stressful period.
$129.99 at Amazon.com
Wahoo TICKR Heart Rate Monitor
Worn around the chest, this heart rate monitor from Wahoo wirelessly transmits your heart rate to your compatible device for instant feedback over Bluetooth via an app. Working with a range of devices from iPhone to Android, it also integrates seamlessly with a slew of smartphone apps like MapMyFitness, Nike+ Run Club, and Strava. But there’s more: You can even pair this monitor directly with your Apple Watch.
$55.83 at Amazon.com
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