A healthy heart rate when exercising

When exercising, we have a tendency to over-exercise on days we feel like it, and push ourselves to the limit.  Other days, we go to the gym just to find ourselves slumping until the hour has past.  Exercising is important, but according to the Heart Association, it is not healthy to over-exercise or not exercise at all.  And the reason for this is based on keeping a healthy heart rate.  Dr Pieter Snyman, a GP at Intercare Wonderboom, confirms that not all exercise is healthy but many people are not aware of this. 

A great way to determine whether you need to slow-it-down, or heat-it-up during exercise, is to use your heart rate as an indicator.  Now, there are two basic things you need to differentiate from - one is you resting heart rate, and the other your target heart rate.  Your resting heart rate is the amount of heart beats per minute when you’re not active.  One of the most accurate ways to determine your resting heart rate is to count your heartbeats when you just woke up in the morning.  Count your heartbeats for 60 seconds by holding two fingers against the inside of you pulse.  Dr Snyman points out that the average resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, while that of an active athlete is 40-60 beats per minute.

Your target heart rate is the heart rate you aim for while exercising and this is usually where it becomes complicated.  It all depends on your age and how active you are.  You also have a maximum heart rate and this means when you exercise it is safe to stop before you reach your maximum heart rate.  Dr Snyman explains there is a simple way to work out your maximum heart rate: take 220 and minus your age, this gives you a rough estimate of your maximum heart rate.  For example, if you are 25 years old, your heart rate should not reach 195 beats per minute (220 – 25). Below is a table for determining your target heart rate while exercising:

The most important thing is to know your body.  Dr Snyman encourages all his patients over the age of 35 to exercise with a heart rate monitor.  This way you can monitor your own progress in your fitness, but more importantly, you can detect when you need to rest.  This means that if you go through your daily routine and you reach 80% of your maximum heart rate even before you reach the top floor of the gym, go home.  It is probably an indication that you have an infection and it is your body’s way of telling you it’s time to rest.  Go for regular checkups, keep a healthy diet, and get back to exercise as soon as possible, but don’t overdo it.

American Heart Association
British Heart Foundation
Medical News Today


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