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Do I need to increase my heart rate when I exercise?

Because the goal of moderate to vigorous exercise is to work your heart muscle, its important to exercise vigorously enough to increase your heart rate. One way to determine if you are exercising intensely enough is to measure your heart rate. After warming up and then sustaining an aerobic activity for about 5 to 10 minutes, take your pulse within 5 seconds of stopping by placing two fingers on the carotid artery on the side of your neck, just under your jaw line and about one to two inches in front of your ear. Count the beats for 10 seconds.

Your heart rate should be about 50 to 85% of its maximum. (You can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220).

If you're out of shape or older than 60, aim for an intensity at the lower end of the 50 to 85% range. To determine what your heart rate should be during exercise, subtract your age from 220; divide that number by 6 for a 10-second heart rate count, then multiply that number by 0.5 for the lower end of the range and 0.85 for the higher end. For example, if you're 70:
  • 220 - 70 = 150 (this would be your maximum heart rate for one minute)
  • 150 / 6 = 25 (this would be your maximum heart rate for 10 seconds)
  • 25 x 0.50 = 12.5 (this would be 50% of your maximum, or the lower end of where your 10-second heart rate should be when you're exercising)
  • 25 x 0.85 = 21.25 (this would be 85% of your maximum, or the higher end of where your 10-second heart rate should be when you're exercising).

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Important: This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.