UNDERSTANDING PULSE RATE

It is not only recommended but imperative that you seek your doctor’s advice before making regular exercise a part of your everyday life. One of the most important considerations is your heart. Exercise makes your heart beat faster simply because the demand for oxygen in your body increases when you exercise. Likewise, you may not know the actual condition of your heart and it therefore becomes necessary to ascertain this first.

Your pulse rate

Your pulse rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute and this does vary from one person to another. Basically, your pulse is lower while you are resting and increases when you exercise.  These are simple ways of taking your pulse rate:

  • Use the tips of your second and third finger on the palm side of your wrist. Place them just below the palm or place both fingers at your neck next to your windpipe.
  • Press lightly and feel the blood pulsing. Adjust your fingers to an ideal spot to best feel the pulse. Time it in seconds. Count the number of beats for 10 seconds and you can then multiply this by 6 to get to your pulse rate per minute.    

 

Normal Heart Rate

Normal resting pulse rate is typically between 60 to 100 beats per minute. Generally, lower pulse rate also signifies better heart function. A seasoned athlete may have a resting rate of 40 beats per minute. Children also tend to have higher rates than adults. Factors that can influence heart rate includes activity level, fitness level, air temperature, body position, emotions, body size and medication.

Maximum Heart Rate

The maximum heart rate is the highest rate your pulse can reach. This is calculated by using 220 beats minus your age. For example if your age is 40, then it would be 220 - 40 = 180. Graded exercise tests can also be used to calculate your maximum heart rate but if you are under medication for heart disease, hypertension or diabetes, consult your doctor on whether your maximum heart rate should be adjusted.

Target Heart Rate

The target heart rate is the ideal zone for you to exercise in. This is normally 60% - 85% of your maximum heart rate. On most contemporary exercise equipment, there is a pulse rate monitor but if you do not have that convenience, you can still check your pulse rate while you exercise. Stop intermittently and measure your pulse rate manually; and stop exercising if your heart rate exceeds your target rate. Always remember that when you begin on an exercise program you would need to gradually build up to a level of your target heart zone.

The table provided can serve as a general guide: