Northside Hospital - Heart rate monitors and running Q and A

Heart rate monitors and running Q and A

Q: My GPS watch has a heart rate monitor. How closely should I be monitoring my heart rate during workouts and as a whole?

A: Checking your heart rate (BPM) during exercise is a tool to measure your exercise intensity. For example, it can help prevent someone new to exercise from excess or dangerous levels of exercise and it can serve as motivation to exercise harder for some individuals.

Q: What is a good target heart rate during a run?

A: A person’s target heart rate can vary by many factors. For moderate exercise your heart rate should be 50-70 percent of your maximum heart rate and for vigorous exercise your heart rate should be 70-85 percent. Start by figuring out your maximum heart rate. This is best determined by a stress test with your physician. A common estimate is 220 minus your age. For example, if you are 45 years old, your estimated maximum heart rate would be 175. Self-testing your maximum heart rate, called a field test, using your heart rate monitor is also an option. Please check with your doctor to make sure that you are healthy and fit enough to exercise at a maximum heart rate or vigorous exercise level.

Q: Is it dangerous if I am spending time in the red zone during my workouts?

A: It is important to remember that high intensity exercise is really designed to improve peak exercise performance and endurance in trained athletes. These individuals are healthy and have above average baseline level of fitness. It can be dangerous to exercise in the "red zone", 90-100 percent of your maximum heart rate. Only very fit individuals should exercise in this zone and for short periods of time.

Q: What should I do if my heart rate is too high, but I feel comfortable during my run?

A: There are a few possibilities for this. First, at higher heart rates, your monitor is not as accurate. Second, your maximum heart rate is underestimated. I would recommend talking to your health care provider about what your target heart rate should be, if this is a consistent finding.


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