When you exercise, your pulse speeds up to help move blood and oxygen through the cells and tissues. Knowing your pulse rate can help you evaluate your exercise routine and maximize the benefits of your workout according to your specific goals like fat burning or increased speed. The best results occur when your pulse is kept within a target zone while you exercise, a pulse that is too high or too low may signal potential problems or not target your specific goals.
Your pulse or heart rate tells you how hard and how efficiently your heart is pumping. Each time the heart expands and contracts, it sends blood through the circulatory system, and you can feel these impulses at points in your body, such as the neck and wrist. A normal pulse ranges from 60 to 90 beats per minute while you are at rest, and up to 200 during vigorous exercise, depending on your age and fitness level. If your pulse is too low, an event called bradycardia may cause dizziness or fainting. If the pulse is too high, the result is tachycardia, which may be a sign of an underlying medical problem.
Calculate your maximum heart rate. If you are a man, determine your maximum heart rate for exercise by subtracting your age from 220. If you are female, subtract 88 percent of your age from 206. During exercise, your target heart rate should be between 60 and 80 percent your maximum heart rate; any pulse rate within this range is normal. Unless you are a professional athlete, avoid exercise that raises the pulse above 85 percent, as this can lead to cardiovascular and orthopedic problems without any health benefits. If you have a pre-existing health problem, your doctor can lower your ideal heart rate by 50 percent.
Several factors can affect your target pulse, including increased air temperature and dehydration, which can cause your heart rate to increase, as well as exercising at higher altitudes. Medications for heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes can also affect your pulse, your doctor may need to adjust your heart rate zone optimally if you have any of these diseases. If your pulse is always too low or too high during exercise, consult your doctor, especially if you also experience difficulty breathing, pain, dizziness or fainting.
You’ll get the most from your workouts if you’re exercising at the proper exercise intensity for your health and fitness goals. If you’re not feeling any exertion or your heart rate is too low, pick up the pace. If you’re worried that you’re pushing yourself too hard or your heart rate is too high, back off the bit.