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Monitoring your heart rate can provide the most effective workout.
Finding and maintaining your target heart rate during your workout will maximize the cardiovascular benefits of exercise. According to the American Heart Association, a target heart rate of 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate is ideal for aerobic training. Fitness Guru further defines the aerobic zone as 70 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. In this range, you can expect to improve your cardiovascular and respiratory systems, as well as burn more calories than lower-intensity exercise.
Finding Your Heart Rate
You can check your pulse, or heart rate, in your neck at your carotid artery or your radial artery in the wrist. Locate the pulse at either location, and count the number of beats for 15 seconds. Multiply this number by four. This is your heart rate. To effectively measure your heart rate during exercise, you should check your pulse while you are still exercising. If you feel unsafe or unsteady checking your pulse, stop exercising and take your heart rate immediately. Even one minute of rest will show a decrease in your heart rate. There are also numerous heart-rate monitors on the market to give you an accurate and instant heart-rate measure.
Calculating Your Target Heart Rate
To calculate your target heart rate, you need to do some basic math. First you have to find your maximum heart rate, which is 220 minus your age, so for a 30-year-old person, the maximum heart rate is 190. A target heart rate between 70 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate is ideal. In this example, the target heart rate range would be 190 multiplied by 0.70 and 190 multiplied by 0.80, or 133 to 152 beats per minute.
Aerobic Exercise Recommendations
All aerobic workouts should include a warm-up and cool-down period to give your body and your heart time to adjust to exercise. The American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) recommends a warm-up and cool-down period of five to 10 minutes each of low- or moderate-intensity exercise. This allows your heart rate to slowly increase to the lower limit of your target heart rate range and slowly return to normal after exercise. The conditioning phase or aerobic exercise session should occur within your target heart rate range. The ACSM continues to recommend aerobic exercise three to five days per week, while MayoClinic.com recommends a total of 150 minutes weekly of moderate-intensity exercise or 75 minutes weekly of vigorous-intensity exercise.
Always speak with your physician prior to initiating any exercise program. Don't forget to discuss your medications, as some medications can blunt heart-rate response and give the appearance that you and your heart are not working as hard as you think you are. Your physician can advise on other mechanisms to monitor your intensity. Stay hydrated during your workouts. If you experience chest pain, dizziness or sudden onset of weakness, stop exercising immediately and seek medical attention.