A pulse rate is often referred to as a heart rate. Heart rate is measured as the number of times that the heart beats in one minute. A pulse is an important tool in measuring cardiovascular endurance. Cardiovascular endurance is a fitness component that assesses the ability of the heart and lungs to provide blood and oxygen to working muscles during activities.
The heart is a muscular pump sending blood through blood vessels to cells, tissues and muscles. Sections of the heart work by filling and squeezing to keep blood moving. The first phase is the filling or relaxing phase. The second phase is the squeezing, or a contraction. Together, the phases contribute to one pulse. A pulse is the throbbing, or beating caused by blood rushing into vessels from the heart with each contraction. The pulse, or heart beat, is felt at various sections, or body locations, wherever vessels are close to the skin.
Pulse Rates at Rest
An average heart beats about 100,000 times daily. A pulse rate is measured in the amount of beats in one minute. At rest, a pulse averages 70 to 80 beats per minute. Endurance athletes can have a resting pulse as low as 40 beats per minute. People that are overweight, sedentary or smokers often have a resting pulse of 90 beats per minute. A pulse is established by the heart's own pacemaker. This is an electrical stimulus that causes the heart to contract.
Pulse Rates During Exercise
With increased activity, more blood is needed, placing a higher demand on the heart. This increased demand results in higher pulse rates. Activity begins with a warm-up section to allow pulse rates to gradually increase from resting to higher training levels. Heart rates increase to reach training zones between 120 and 160 beats per minute. Training zones vary according to age, resting heart rate and the activity levels. In order to improve cardiovascular fitness, workouts need to remain in the training zones for 20 to 30 minutes. Activities end with a cool-down period to gradually decrease pulse rates from training zones back to resting, or recovery rates.
Monitoring Pulse Rates
Pulse rates can be self-monitored at various pulse points. A common site is the radial site on the wrist. Using the first three fingers, not including the thumb, apply light pressure against the thumb side of the wrist. When determining a pulse rate, count each pulsation for 10 seconds and multiply the number by six. The computed amount is the pulse rate. If a radial pulse can't be found, another site is the carotid pulse on the side of the neck.
It is difficult to make an assessment of cardiovascular endurance based on one pulse check. When finding a true resting pulse, the best time is in the morning upon awakening. Find a resting heart rate for three consecutive mornings, then find the average of the three measurements. For training pulse rates, complete two to three pulse checks at various times during the training phase of the workout. Keep moving while taking a pulse check to maintain training rates.
- "Keep Moving! Fitness Through Aerobics And Step"; Esther Pryor, & Minda Goodman Kraines; 2000
- "Fitness and Wellness: The Physical Connection"; Frank D. Rosato; 1990
- "The King Fisher Science Encyclopedia"; Kingfisher; 2000