Please Note: This article is presented for informational purposes only and is not meant to diagnose or treat any illness. If you have any health concern, see a licensed healthcare professional in person.
We all know that the heart is our single most important muscle – it pumps all the vital things that our body needs such as oxygen and minerals via blood. What many people don’t realize though, is that it grows stronger by exercising it. Like any muscle we train.
Aerobic workouts use a lot of body muscles over a long period, consistently. And when a muscle is being worked out it demands oxygen. So, to deliver the oxygen through your body, your heart needs to pump harder, thereby making itself stronger in the process.
What your Heart Beat Tells You
When you exercise to strengthen your body, your heart becomes stronger. And since a strong heart can pump more blood through your body than a weak heart, over time, it will require fewer beats per minute to deliver the same amount of oxygen.
And that, in turn, means that you could (and should) increase the intensity of your workouts.
That’s also the reason why measuring your heartbeat is such a great way to evaluate the efficiency of your exercise. It helps you understand if you’re breaking the limit of your body or if you need to try harder. A Heart Rate Monitor (HRM) can tell you exactly that.
How Heart Rate Monitors Work
In essence, a heart rate monitor works the same way an electrocardiogram (ECG) works. A chest strap is wrapped around your heart, which has a transmitter that observes your heart rate and transmits it to your wrist watch from where you can see it. The transmitter can also send data to phone apps or fitness wearables.
Some smartphones nowadays also have the necessary sensors to measure your heart rate. So you can say modern smartphones come with built-in HRM. All you need to do is install the compatible heart rate monitoring apps.
Heart rate monitors continuously track your heart rate. The data is displayed as how many times your heart beats per minute. Instant pulse monitors, on the other hand, show data as its name says, only of that instant. That means, if you want to measure your heartbeat with an instant pulse monitor then you’ll have to stop in the middle of your exercise to do so. But a heart rate monitors save you from that problem as it measures your heart rate unceasingly.
Ways to Use a Heart Rate Monitor
A heart rate monitor can tell you a lot about your health. Using it the right way can help you with your exercises as well, because it gives you a good idea of your heart’s condition. By comparing the data to previous months, you can easily tell if you’re getting fit or not. Heart rate monitors also help you recognize your heart’s limit and tell you if you need to stop or keep pushing harder.
By measuring your resting heart rate and your recovery rate you can know if you’re getting fit or not. Measuring changes in these stats can tell a lot about your progress.
Resting heart rate is your heart rate when you’re not doing anything. The healthier you are the less your resting heart rate will be compared to normal people. So, a decrease in your resting heartbeat can indicate that your fitness program is actually working.
Recovery rate is also a good indicator of your health. Recovery rate is the amount of time your heart takes to go back to the resting or pre-exercise heart rate. The less recovery time your heart takes the healthier your heart is.
According to Dr. Catherine Stoney, a scientist at the National Heart Blood and Lung Institute,” How quickly your heart rate returns to its normal pace is a good way to measure cardiac fitness”. She also says that a low recovery rate indicates that your heart is functioning efficiently and is able to return to its normal state more rapidly.
Finding Your Limit
You won’t get much out of your exercise if your heart rate isn’t high enough. On the other hand, if your heart rate gets too high you might expose your heart to risks. By knowing your maximum heart rate, you can determine the target heart rate you need for moderate and aggressive exercises.
The easy way to find your maximum heart rate is by subtracting your age number from 220, but this is just a rule of thumb. The best way to know your maximum heart rate is by getting tested at an exercise lab. You can also try measuring it yourself using a heart rate monitor.
Once you know your maximum heart rate you can push yourself to do more without exposing yourself to any kind of injury. According to Dr. Stoney, fat burning starts taking place when you reach 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. While doing aerobics training it is recommended to keep your heart rate around 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. The number is a little lower for endurance training. Around 60 percent is recommended for that.
Are HRM’s Trustworthy?
Depending on the brand and model you’re using, the accuracy of your HRM device may differ. Some are obviously better than others. Chest strap monitors give better result monitoring your heart rate that the wrist-watch monitors as they monitor the electrical pulse of your heart. Wrist-watch monitors, on the other hand, use optical sensors to measure heart rate by sensing the blood flow in your body. This method is less accurate. Built-in phone sensors also use optical sensors (to see the blood flow in your fingertips) to determine your heart rate, thus reducing their accuracy.
Heart rate monitors also give us other important data such as maximum heart rate, resting heart rate, recovery rate etc. As those numbers depend on many different variables including age, weight and health condition, heart rate monitors alone don’t give the most accurate result. If you don’t take these factors into account, it might even result in either slowing you down or exposing you to danger.
There are many different kinds of heart rate monitors out there. Most will be accurate enough to help you increase the efficiency of work-out routines, but less reliable models may slow down your progress. Considering allthe advantages and disadvantages, heart rate monitors are definitely very helpful, but it’s important to get the right one.
This content is sponsored by Tasnim Siddiquee.