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How to tell if your heart rate is healthy during a workout

Between Apple Watches and Fitbits, many people monitor their heart rate during a workout. What appears on screen for you might be completely different from the woman next to you in an exercise class. Heart rate ranges vary from person to person, which is completely normal.

Your heart rate range should be thought of as just that: a range. There is no perfect number, pointed out Dr. Peter Robinson, assistant professor of medicine in the division of cardiology at UConn Health Medical Center.

“In general, the higher your intensity, the harder you train, the higher your heart rate,” he said.

But what if you notice a rapid increase in heart rate during a run or find that your heart rate isn’t as high as it used to be? There are reasons for both of these things. Here, experts share what you need to know about your heart rate when you train:

First, it’s important to understand what a healthy heart rate is for you.

When it comes to a normal heart rate during a workout, it entirely depends on the type of workout and the person, said Dr. Aaron Baggish, director of the Cardiovascular Performance Program at Massachusetts General Hospital Heart Center.

“WWe all have an intrinsic zone we live in — the top number [of our heart rate] is generally dictated by our age and gender,” he said, adding that women tend to run 10 to 15 beats per minute higher than men and everyone else heart rates tend to slowly decrease over time starting with age 30 or 35. (“It declines by a few beats per year,” Baggish noted.)

Thus, a healthy maximum heart rate varies greatly from person to person. In a 70-year-old runner, their maximum heart rate during a workout might be 140 or 150 beats per minute (BPM). For an 18-year-old athlete, his maximum may be 200 BPM.

To determine your maximum heart rate, use a simple formula

Since there is no standard, normal heart rate, Dr. Danny Eapen, preventive cardiologist at Emory Healthcare’s Center for Heart Disease Prevention, suggests you use a calculation – known as the Fox Formula – to determine what is probably healthy for you.

To get your max heart rate, just subtract your age from 220. So if you’re 38, you’d subtract 38 from 220 to get your max heart rate, which would be around 182 BPM.

And during a workout, you can use that number as a benchmark to determine the intensity of a workout you’re doing, he said. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, moderate-intensity exercise is 64% to 76% of your maximum heart rate, and vigorous-intensity exercise is 77% to 93% of your maximum heart rate.

So for a 38 year old, a moderate intensity heart rate would be approximately between 116 and 138 BPM and can be achieved by brisk walking, dancing, gardening and more.

If you get 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each week, you’re meeting the American Heart Association’s physical activity guideline. Those who stick to the guidelines have a lower risk of heart disease, stroke and high blood pressure, among other benefits.

But you probably don’t want to stay in your maximum heart rate range for too long.

Eapen added that you don’t want to keep your heart rate at peak for too long simply because you probably won’t be able to sustain it for more than a minute or two.

But, if you’re training specifically for something, you can try interval training to bring your heart rate up to (or near) its maximum, then reduce the intensity to bring your heart rate down.

So try running for a two-minute interval and then walking for a two-minute interval, for example. “It’s the best way to help condition muscles and increase aerobic exercise capacity,” he said.

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A healthy maximum heart rate decreases with age.

In addition, certain factors can lead to a higher heart rate during training

According to Eapen, if you’re dehydrated, anemic, or have high thyroid levels, you might notice a racing heart rate when you exercise.

People who take a pre-workout supplement may also experience it, in addition to people who are just starting a fitness journey. Their heart rate may tend to increase initially as their body adjusts to work, Eapen explained.

“All [these things] can raise your base heart rate and kind of exacerbate exercise-related heart rate,” he said.

A heartbeat that speeds up out of nowhere is concerning

According to Baggish, it should be concerning if your heart rate is racing without a good explanation.

If you are at a light work level and your heart rate is “going from something you can’t feel to something that feels like it’s coming out of your chest,” you should talk to a doctor, he explained.

From there, your doctor can fit you with a heart rate monitor for your workout, which will help them determine if what you’re experiencing is cause for concern. Baggish added that our own perception of heart rate may be faulty, so professional monitoring is necessary before jumping to extreme conclusions.

Additionally, Robinson added that any sudden drop in heart rate should also be treated by a doctor. These steep drops, he noted, can happen in seconds and should trigger a conversation with a doctor.

Some symptoms are also worrying

Chest tightness, extreme shortness of breath and dizziness with any level of activity are cause for concern, Robinson said.

“It tells me that you push the limits beyond [what] your heart can handle [and] exceeding your heart’s ability to compensate,” he said.

If you notice these symptoms while working out, it could mean that you have problems with your heart valves or that you are pushing too hard.

“These are all warning signs to back off,” he said. If these symptoms disappear immediately, you should simply note that the level of exertion was too high. But, Robinson noted, if they don’t go away or start happening at lower levels of exertion, you should call your doctor.

He pointed out that chest pain, in particular, is a big problem. If you have ongoing chest pain, you probably want to be seen as soon as possible, he said. There’s a low chance of this happening during or after a workout, but if it does, you don’t want to wait to see a doctor.

How to tell if your heart rate is healthy during a workout

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Any kind of chest pain during a workout should be treated by a doctor.

It is important to know your healthy heart rate range to determine what is normal for you.

A heart rate of 200 BPM may be fine for a 20-year-old, but problematic for a 70-year-old, Baggish noted, regardless of what exercise she’s doing.

What’s normal for you depends on your age, gender, and what your body is used to. “It all depends on the intrinsic range you live in,” he said. “Certainly there can be higher than normal heart rates, and in that situation it’s an arrhythmia,” also known as an irregular heartbeat, and one that cardiologists are concerned about.

There is a direct relationship between the intensity of your exercise and your heart rate. It’s crucial to understand what’s normal for you so you can spot a potential irregularity (like your heart rate jumping unusually the next time you take a leisurely walk) so you can alert your doctor, a- he declared.

Instead of a specific heart rate number, pay attention to changes

When tracking your heart rate (and all aspects of your body’s health, for that matter), “change and patterns are probably more important than anything else,” Robinson says.

For example, if you are still doing a certain amount of exercise and notice that your heart rate is increasing much faster than usual, or if you are extremely short of breath after your normal workout routine, it could be a sign that something is wrong. something dangerous is happening. on, he noted.

Any changes are important to doctors, Robinson said. Reporting a change in your health habits can sometimes be the key a doctor needs to diagnose a problem.

This is potentially even more important now that many people are dealing with the reality of a long COVID or bad COVID-19 infection that is absolutely impacting their usual workout routine.

All in all, know what is best for you

An increase in heart rate during a workout is normal, and just because it hits a certain number doesn’t mean you’re at risk for complications.

The most important thing is to learn to understand your healthy heart rate range and how it interacts with the exercises you do most often.

If you feel good after an intense workout and your fitness expectations are in line, you’re probably fine. But, if you notice any irregularities, pain, or anything that doesn’t fit into your normal workout, you need to contact a doctor.

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