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Home / Tips and Tricks / Heart rate measurement is the secret to getting fit. Here's how to use it

Heart rate measurement is the secret to getting fit. Here's how to use it



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It was the most difficult part of the race, 1,000 feet from what seemed like an almost vertical slope between me and the finish line. As I approached the top, my heart felt like it was about to burst through my chest. I didn't need my Fitbit to tell me that I was working hard on this hill, but I looked at my wrist and there it was: 1

85 beats per minute. I had reached my peak heart rate.

Heart rate tracking is a standard feature on many fitness trackers such as the Apple Watch ($ 349 at Amazon) Galaxy Watch and most Fitbits but they lay rarely what they should do with that information

Before training a half marathon, I didn't really know what to do with the heart rate data, but once I realized it, I could use it to improve my performance and achieve my goal of completing it in something less than two hours.

Read more : Apple Watch vs.. Fitbit Versa, what's the best? | Do you have to follow this fitness counter instead of your heart rate?

Why is heart beat important?

Heart rate can tell a lot about your overall health and it is one of the best ways to measure overall fitness, according to Dr. med. Anthony Luke, first-line sports medicine director at the University of California at San Francisco.

The lower your heart rate, the greater your cardiovascular fitness. "If your basic heartbeat is slow, it means that your body is more efficient and you don't have to raise things to get things moving," Dr. says. Luke.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal healthy adult should have a resting heartbeat at 60 to 100 beats per minute, although some top athletes have a resting heartbeat closer to 40 beats per minute.

When you exercise, your heart beats faster to provide the nutrient-rich and oxygen-rich blood that your muscles need to keep you moving. In turn, you can use your heart rate to measure how intense your workouts are – the higher your heart rate, the harder your body works. But there is more than that.

Read more: 6 workouts for people who hate sports

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Joshua Goldman / CNET

Measuring your heart rate

You do not really need a fitness tracker or chest strap to measure your heart rate. Just feeling my wrist on my wrist or the side of my neck would have confirmed the thumps I already felt in my chest while scaling that hill.

That said, smartwatches and fitness trackers have made this information so easily available that all you have to do is look at your wrist. This is especially useful when you are training, because stopping halfway through a run to take your pulse manually is a lot less convenient.

Without buying anything extra, you can also measure your heart rate with your smartphone .

Read more: How to recover from a heavy workout

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Samsung & # 39; s Galaxy Watch uses heart rate to detect stress levels. James Martin / CNET

Finding Your Maximum Heart Rate

If you are just starting out on your fitness journey, it is probably too early to dig into your heart rate data. Every form of physical activity that takes you off the couch and lets your heart pump above your baseline is progress. But in the end, understanding your heart rate can help you stay focused on your fitness goals in the long run, such as losing weight or increasing your speed.

The most important thing is that your heart rate can help you answer the question: "Are my workouts effective?" To find that answer, you must first calculate your maximum heart rate.

Related: Does Orangetheory Fitness work for muscle strengthening and fat loss?

The maximum heart rate is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity, according to the Mayo Clinic. This number is not always easy, because there are other factors to consider – including gender – but for a very simple calculation, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 30 years old, your MHR would be 220 – 30 = 190 bpm.

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James Martin / CNET

Heart Rate Zones

Once you know your MHR, you can then calculate your "heart rate workout zones" that will help you with your workouts.

Some fitness trackers and apps do this for you. For example, Fitbit divides it into three zones: fat burning, cardio and peak. However, there may be more than three zones and the names and numbers change slightly depending on your program.

Here is a very general overview of what these zones mean and what you can achieve with each zone.

50-70% of your MHR: This is what the American Heart Association regards as moderate exercise and can also be referred to as the "fat burning zone". Training in this zone will, as the name suggests, burn fat and also build endurance.

70-85% of your MHR: Powerful exercise also known as aerobic or cardio zone. Training in this zone can improve cardiovascular fitness and build strength.

85-95% of your MHR: this is high intensity or anaerobic exercise, which can increase the speed.

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How to use your heart rate zones

Not everyone has to pay attention to heart rate zones during exercise. If your main goal is to lose weight, burning more calories is the key. All of the above training zones burn calories, but the more intense your workout, the more calories you burn. But before you push yourself to your heart rate limits during your next workout, you know that while a higher-intensity workout will burn calories faster, you can also burn faster and increase your risk of injury, leaving you behind in your training.

There are even indications that heart rate zones are not always what they promise and that the main goal of weight loss should be the burning of calories. This is why a longer, moderate workout can be just as effective at achieving weight loss or, in some cases, even more effective in the long run, as it becomes more durable over time.

If you prepare for a race like me, the intensity of your training is important. I knew that I had to increase my speed to reach my time goal, so I strived to stay in strength training for most of my runs and made sure that I pressed myself to intensive training for a few minutes in each session.

Regardless of which training zone you are targeting, there are many factors that can affect the heart rate and it is best to contact your doctor before drastically changing your fitness routine, especially if you are over 50 or have a history has had heart-related conditions.

Long-term success

If you are a professional athlete, you want to get even more details about your heart rate than what a traditional optical heart rate sensor (found on most fitness trackers) can offer. That's why serious athletes prefer chest straps that follow the electrical activity of the heart.

But perhaps the most important measure of success is your resting heart rate and you do not need a chest strap to measure it. You know that your training trip will pay off if you notice that your resting heart rate has decreased over time. This will not happen overnight, but it can have lasting effects on your health. If you lower your heart rate at rest, your heart becomes stronger and your risk of heart disease decreases.

Read more: Running a marathon without leaving your house

The information in this article is for educational and informational purposes only and is not intended as health or medical advice. . Always consult a doctor or other qualified health care professional for any questions you may have about a medical condition or health goals.


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