As the heart rhythmically contracts and relaxes, the arteries simultaneously pump to push the blood through the body. A measurement taken of the arterys' rhythm is called a pulse or heart rate. A heart rate is a vital sign useful in determining general health. Recording your heart rate is a simple procedure that you can do at home to gauge your overall health.
Things You'll Need
- Clock with secondhand
- Calculator or pencil and paper
Taking a Pulse Reading
Stay still while taking a resting pulse reading. Any movement can give a false reading of the resting rate. To check the carotid artery pulse, place the index and middle fingers of one hand on the neck just below the jawline, directly under the ear.
Use a clock to time a 10-second period, and count the number of beats. Take this number and multiply by 6. The result is the number of beats per minute, or resting pulse rate. For example, if the number of beats felt on the neck equals 11, then the pulse rate is 66 beats per minute.
Determine whether your pulse rate is normal. A normal resting pulse for an adult is approximately 60 to 100 beats per minute. Illnesses or drugs can affect the rate. Athletes might have below-average pulse rates, between 40 and 60 beats per minute. Generally, a lower pulse rate reflects a higher fitness level. Consult your physician if your heart rate is not in the normal zone.
Taking a Working Pulse Rate
You may also want to monitor the effects of exercise on pulse rate to make sure that your body is not experiencing too much stress at high activity. To calculate your maximum working pulse, subtract your age from 220. So, 200 beats per minute is your maximum rate if you are 20 years old. Your maximum rate should not be exceeded during exercise.
To calculate the upper limit of your target pulse rate, multiply your maximum rate by 0.8. So if your maximum rate is 200, then your upper limit is 160 beats per minute (200 beats per minute times 0.8) To calculate the lower limit, multiple your maximum rate by 0.6. So, if your maximum rate is 200, then your lower limit is 120 beats per minute. Thus, during your exercise routine you should aim for a pulse rate of 120 to 160 beats per minute.
Take your pulse, as outlined above, during warm-up, in the middle of your workout, after your workout, and after your cool-down period. Your maximum pulse should stay mostly within your target zone. If your pulse rate is higher than your target zone, then either decrease resistance and/or speed, or increase rest between sets.
Tips & Warnings
- Never use your thumb for a pulse reading. Your thumb has a pulse of its own, which might affect measurements.
- Like other muscles, your heart can be trained to be stronger. Increasing your fitness with exercise is an effective way to train your heart to be more efficient at pumping blood, and to decrease your resting heart rate.
- Consult your doctor if you have any concerns about your heart rate.
- Stop exercising and seek medical attention if you experience nausea, dizziness, numbness or tingling, or pain.
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