Checking your pulse helps you accurately gauge your intensity during aerobic exercise. Your pulse indicates your heart rate; in fact, the two terms are often used interchangeably. While experts agree on an optimal pulse-rate range for moderate activity, the actual increase in pulse depends on your resting heart rate, which varies from person to person. Focus on achieving the right pulse rate for moderate exercise rather than comparing your resting pulse with your rate during activity.
Defining Moderate Exercise
Moderate-intensity aerobic exercise -- the term "moderate" isn't generally used to describe resistance training -- is more intense than light cardio but less intense than vigorous cardio. Moderate activities include walking quickly, riding a bicycle at a casual pace and swimming leisurely. In contrast, taking a stroll is light exercise, while jogging or cycling at high speeds is considered vigorous. During a moderate workout, your breath deepens, and you can speak easily but can't sing in tune. You also sweat, even in cooler weather.
Pulse During Exercise
During a moderate cardio workout, your pulse should indicate a heart rate between 50 and 70 percent of maximum. To learn your maximum heart rate, subtract your age in years from the number 220: At 45 years old, for example, your maximum heart rate is 175. Multiply that number times 0.5 to find 50 percent of maximum, which equals 87.5 beats per minute for a 45-year-old. Multiply your maximum heart rate times 0.7 to find 70 percent, which equals 122.5 at that age. If you're 45 years old, a heart rate of 87.5 to 122.5 indicates a moderate workout.
Although some cardio machines and handheld devices measure pulse, you may get more accurate results by finding it yourself. To determine your pulse, stop exercising and place two fingers on the pulse point of your wrist or neck. With your eye on a timer or clock, count the number of pulses you feel for 15 seconds. Multiply that number times 4 to find your bpm.
Although your pulse increases during activity, performing regular aerobic exercise actually lowers your resting heart rate over time. This is an important health benefit, as higher heart rates are linked to increased risk of high blood pressure, atherosclerosis -- hardening of the arteries -- and even sudden death, according to Harvard Medical School. To test your resting heart rate, check your pulse after lying still for at least 10 minutes. Healthy heart rates for adults fall between 60 and 100 bpm, although highly trained athletes may experiences rates as low as 40 bpm.
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