Physical activity can help your teen stay fit and active. Proper pacing during exercise can ensure your teen gets a challenging workout without burning herself out. Monitoring her heart rate provides one measure of how hard her body is working. It can also provide an idea of your teen’s overall health – a high heart rate when active is normal, but one that is high during periods of inactivity can indicate an overconsumption of caffeine or even illicit drug use.
A teen’s heart rate varies depending upon her age and conditioning. The normal, or resting, pulse rate in adolescence can range between 50 to 60 beats per minute to as high as 90 to 100. When active, the maximum heart rate for a teen – the highest amount his heart can safely beat per minute – is about 200 to 205. You can obtain the exact number by subtracting your teen’s age from 220. In “The Teen Health Book: A Parents' Guide to Adolescent Health and Well-Being,” author Ralph Lopez notes an extremely active and fit teen will normally have a lower active heart rate than one unaccustomed to exercise.
To maximize the cardiovascular and fat-burning benefits of exercise without overdoing it, most teens will want to aim for an active heart rate within 50 to 85 percent of their maximum. This heart rate, defined as the “target” heart rate by the American Heart Association, can provide a measure of the impact of your teen’s physical activity upon his heart rate. The target heart rate for a healthy 16-year-old will fall between 102 and 173, depending upon his fitness level and the type of exercise.
A chronically high heart rate, even during periods of inactivity, does not automatically mean your teen is ill or using illicit drugs. Although marijuana, cocaine and other drugs can increase your teen’s resting heart rate, anxiety and overconsumption of caffeine can also elevate her resting heart rate to active levels. Contact your teen’s doctor if you notice a regularly elevated heart rate, especially if accompanied by agitation or dizziness.
Monitoring his heart rate during exercise sessions can help your teen keep his active heart rate within the target zone. Although your teen can measure his heart rate by placing his hand on his pulse and counting the beats per minute, a heart monitor can provide a more accurate and convenient way to measure the pulse. Since many teens like technology, the Rhode Island Department of Health suggests using a gadget like a monitor can spur interest in exercise and physical health.
Health conditions like hyperthyroidism and paroxysmal atrial tachycardia, a cardiac condition in which the heart’s upper part sends out rapid electric signals, can cause your teen’s active and resting heart rate to be high. These conditions require comprehensive medical evaluation and treatment to avoid further complications, so report any concerns relating to your child’s heart rate promptly to her doctor.