Fitness Tips

Taking Your Pulse

Listening to your body is important. If you feel tired, slow down. If you feel like the exercise is easy, you can pick up the pace. However, how you feel doesn't always accurately reflect how hard your body is working. Your heart rate can tell you if you're working too hard or not hard enough. If you work out at a very high level, you increase your chance of injury and burnout. If you work out at a very low level, then you may not be challenging your body enough to improve your fitness. For best results, you should be exercising at 60-85% of your maximum heart rate. This is called your Target Heart Rate (THR).

Determine your Target Heart Rate as follows:

  1. Subtract your age from 220. This is your approximate Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) or heart rate at 100% effort
  2. MHR x .60 = THR for beginning aerobic exercise
  3. MHR x .70 = THR for intermediate aerobic exercise
  4. MHR x .85 = THR for advanced aerobic exercise
  5. Divide your answer by 6 for the number of beats you should have in 10 seconds
    Example: 220 - 40 = 180. 180 x .70 = 126. 126 / 6 = 21.

A Word of Caution

About 10 minutes into your workout, measure your heart rate for 10 seconds at your wrist or neck. Your thumb has its own pulse, so be sure to use your index and middle fingers when checking your heart rate. Compare it to your THR. A heart-rate monitor will give you a more accurate gauge without interrupting your workout. If you're tired, stressed, dehydrated or coming down with an illness, your heart rate may be elevated, which should tell you not to work out as hard as usual.

Take the time to figure out your Target Heart Rate, then try to maintain a pace that feels comfortable and is most beneficial to your fitness.

Terms of your use of this information.