How do I monitor my heart rate during exercise?

Eric Olsen
One way to judge what is moderate activity for you is to measure your heart rate. Although this is perhaps a more accurate approach to gauging your effort, it's also more of a nuisance if you happen to be one of those who has a hard time finding a pulse to count. In any case, moderate activity is activity intense enough to elevate your heart rate to at least 50 percent of your maximum heart rate (60 to 70 percent is better). You can calculate your rough maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Thus, if you're 55, your theoretical maximum heart rate will be 165. Seventy percent of this would be 115 beats per minute. (While exercising, stop and count your pulse for 10 seconds, then multiply by six.) You should measure your heart rate during the sustained effort portion of your workout, not during the beginning warm-up period or the later cool-down, as these measurements won't be as indicative of your true sustained effort. Also, if you're very out of shape, counting your heart rate won't give you an indication of the intensity of your effort.
Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

More About this Book

Lifefit: An Effective Exercise Program for Optimal Health and a Longer Life

An easy-to-follow programme for lengthening and improving lives. More than an exercise guide, this text is an effective tool for making meaningful lifestyle decisions to benefit long-term fitness. In...
Dr. Vonda Wright, MD
Orthopedic Surgery
During wour workouts, periodically check your heart rate. If you have a heart rate monitor (a device worn on your chest and wrist that can detect and track your heart rate while you are being active), you can set the alarm limits around your target heart range.

If you do not have a monitor, you can get a rough estimate of your heart rate by counting your pulse for six seconds and adding a zero. You can check your pulse by placing your index and middle fingers lightly on your radial pulse. This is the pulse on the thumb side of your wrist. Press lightly because pressing too heavily will cut off the flow of blood through the vessel, and you will be unable to count. You can also place your fingers lightly on either side of your windpipe (the hard tube you feel in the very center of your throat) to feel your carotid pulse. Do not press too hard or massage this area since this can affect your heart rate. Practice taking your pulse before you start to exercise so you know what you are feeling for before you exercise. If your heart rate is too slow, pick up your pace; if it is too high, then slow down a bit.
Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age

More About this Book

Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age

It's one of the undeniable facts of life. After we reach a certain age, our bodies change. No matter how fit we may have been at 20, we're very different people after 40. But growing older doesn't...

There are several methods to monitoring heart rate during exercise. For example you can periodically take your pulse. Once you find your pulse, count the number of beats for 10 seconds and multiply by six. This method is effective but a bit cumbersome. The most effective and easiest form of monitoring your heart rate during exercise is to use a heart rate monitor. Heart rate monitors are very effective and provide a lot of feedback in addition to your heart rate such as estimated calories expended and distance traveled. They help you track the intensity of your effort with objective information. This is more precise than relying on how you feel (ratings of perceived exertion).

Continue Learning about Fitness

Top (Healthy) Reasons to Love Fall
Top (Healthy) Reasons to Love Fall
Apple picking, corn mazes, cooler weather, piles of colorful leaves—fall is a magical time of year. As this new season begins, you might feel inspired...
Read More
Can diet and exercise help treat obstructive sleep apnea?
Dr. Mehmet Oz, MDDr. Mehmet Oz, MD
Diet and exercise may be able to help ease symptoms of obstructive sleep apnea, especially exercise ...
More Answers
5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat
5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat5 Smart Ways to Exercise in the Heat
Whether you're riding your bike or taking a swim, here's how to stay safe during your summer workouts.
Start Slideshow
What Are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?
What Are the Benefits of Foam Rolling?

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.