A heart rate that is measured when your body is in resting mode is called your normal or resting heart rate, or RHR. In general, pregnant women, children and babies have a higher RHR than other people. People who regularly train their hearts and lungs, to function well through exercise, tend to have a lower resting heart rate.
A healthy heart will beat relatively slowly, while pumping the necessary amount of blood to the rest of the body. Professional athletes and people who play sports often normally have healthy hearts and a resting heart rate that is slow. During exercise, the body calls for more oxygen and blood, which means the heart has to beat faster to ensure that blood is properly distributed throughout the body and adequate oxygen is supplied. When the heart beats fast during times when a person is not exercising, this could be a sign of a weak heart or lungs.
A low heart rate is known as bradycardia, and tachycardia is the term used to describe a rapid heart rate. Both of these conditions can be harmful for the body and heart. Most people are aware of their heart rate while they are exercising. However, working out with a high heart rate can cause damage to the body, increasing the risk of cardiac arrest and heart attack. The way to observe the maximum heart rate during exercise is to conduct a stress test on the treadmill in a physician’s office or with a trainer. Healthy individuals can use the following formula to determine their maximum heart rate, or MHR:
-for women, the MHR is 226 minus the age of the woman
-for men, the MHR is 220 minus the age of the man
People who have been diagnosed with certain illnesses or are taking specific medications should talk to their doctors about their MHR during exercise. Once patients are aware of their MHR, they can start working out with 50% of their MHR if they are just starting an exercise plan. The heart rate can be increased gradually as the heart becomes toned. A safe heart rate is between 50 and 60% of the MHR.
Since the maximum benefits of exercise are not accomplished when a person is working out with low intensity, more strength training and cardio may be added to increase the effects of the exercise session. Athletes and physically active individuals work with high intensity and can function with 85% of their MHR, or even a little more, as part of endurance or circuit training. However, for people who are not as active, this MHR percentage can be dangerous. People who are used to exercising can work with 60-75% MHR. Going above this can cause breathlessness and other serious health problems. Individual who lead a primarily sedentary lifestyle should exercise a little more caution when exercising.
Even when individuals are working within their target heart rate, it’s important to slow down if dizziness occurs. Exercise should be a challenge, but the challenge shouldn’t be so overwhelming that it leads to disorientation or a lightheaded feeling. It’s important for the heart rate to be raised gradually, so consulting with a doctor will give patients pointers on how to increase the heart rate healthily.