Activities That Affect Your Heartbeat

Activities That Affect Your Heartbeat

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Monitoring your pulse guides your exercise intensity.

Duncan Smith/Photodisc/Getty Images

Your heart beats to supply blood and oxygen to the working tissues of the body. How fast your heart beats depends on how intensely your body is working. The harder you work the faster your heart beats. Different types of activities elicit different heart rates. Understanding what is typical under different conditions helps you to know when you are doing too much, when you are maximizing the benefits to your heart and when it's time to work harder.

Add Some Aerobics

Aerobic activities such as walking, running, cycling and swimming will push your heart rate up significantly. How high they go beyond your resting level depends primarily on how hard you are working. The more intense the activity the higher the heart rate. Activities that require the use of both upper and lower body muscles will elicit a higher heart rate. For example, swimming would elevate your heart rate more than pedaling a recumbent bicycle. Activities done standing versus sitting or lying down will also lead to a higher heart rate.

Beginning exercisers take heart, when you first start out on an exercise program your heart rate may spike up quickly and remain high while you are active. Over time as you continue to exercise regularly, your heart rate will adapt to the stress and will not need to beat as many times to keep up the needed blood supply. As a result, your heart rate will not be as high during your workout if you don't increase the intensity.

Soar with Strength Training

Strength training also increases your heart rate. Larger muscles will cause a greater spike in heart rate than smaller ones. Additionally, the heavier the weight being lifted the higher the heart rate. Exercisers should be cautioned that holding your breath while lifting a weight, known as the Valsalva maneuver, will cause a significant increase in heart rate and may potentially be unsafe. Exhaling while lifting a weight will reduce this risk.

Boost Your Activity

Beyond your workout program, routine daily physical activities will also cause an increased heart rate. You will typically find your heart rate to be its lowest when you are lying down sleeping. Any movement beyond that requires a greater blood flow to the working muscles and causes an increase in your heart rate. Standing up, walking to the kitchen, eating, climbing the stairs, clapping, and even laughing will cause an increase in your heart rate over your resting level. As with exercise, the more intense your physical activities, the higher your heart rate will go up.

Consider Other Factors

While an elevated heart rate is normal with physical activity, there are several other factors that may influence the extent by which your heart rate changes. Certain medications may either increase or decrease your heart rate response. For example, antihistamines will cause an elevated heart rate while beta blockers are designed to keep your heart rate down. Consuming caffeine causes your heart rate to increase. On a warmer day, your heart rate may be higher than on a cooler day as your body has to work to keep your body temperature down. In spite of these factors, monitoring your heart rate and determining what is "normal" for you during various activities can still be a helpful guide when designing an exercise program. Before starting any exercise program, consult with your physician and a qualified fitness professional.