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Is Heart Rate Affected by Different Activities?

author image Kim Nunley
Kim Nunley has been screenwriting and working as an online health and fitness writer since 2005. She’s had multiple short screenplays produced and her feature scripts have placed at the Austin Film Festival. Prior to writing full-time, she worked as a strength coach, athletic coach and college instructor. She holds a master's degree in kinesiology from California State University, Fullerton.
Is Heart Rate Affected by Different Activities?
A group of men are riding stationary bikes. Photo Credit DGLimages/iStock/Getty Images

The rate at which your heart pumps blood is directly correlated with the intensity at which your body is working. Therefore, different activities will make varying impacts on your heart rate. Monitoring your heart rate while exercising is important for ensuring that you receive the maximum benefits from your workouts.

Function of the Heart

As your heart beats, it pumps out blood to be delivered to your working tissues. Within the blood is oxygen, which is necessary for the utilization of fuel, and the fuel and nutrients themselves. During rest, when you’re seated or lying down, your heart rate is near its lowest point because your tissues aren’t currently working and don’t need as much oxygen or as many nutrients.

Effects of Intensity

Activities are of varying intensity. Movements that require the recruitment of large muscles in your body, such as your legs, make your heart work harder. Your heart must adjust to the increased or decreased demands of whatever activity you’re participating in. Activities such as running and riding an elliptical machine, which are movements that are driven by the legs, make your heart pump faster in order to deliver the oxygen and nutrients required by your muscles. Your heart rate also corresponds accordingly with varying intensity within the same activity, such as sprinting versus jogging.

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Ideal Exercise Heart Rate

Participating in regular physical activity offers numerous health benefits, including increased heart health and the promotion of a healthy body composition. In order to maximize the benefits of exercise and receive these benefits, you should perform your workouts at an intensity that causes your heart rate to fall into your target heart rate range. This range is about 50 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. To determine your target heart rate, first find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. Then, multiply that value by both 0.50 and 0.80, which will give you the low- and high-end numbers of your range.

Adjusting Heart Rate

You can adjust your heart rate during different activities. Increasing or decreasing the speed or rate of movement will cause your heart rate to increase or decrease. If you’re on a piece of stationary cardiovascular equipment, such as a stationary bike or an elliptical machine, you can adjust the resistance or the incline.

Monitoring Heart Rate

To determine whether you’re within your appropriate target heart rate range, you can wear a heart rate monitor, which is strapped across your chest against your skin. The real-time readings are then transmitted to a wrist watch for easy monitoring. Another option would be to count your heart rate by placing your fingers on your carotid artery and counting the number of beats in a minute. If neither of those are options, you can use the talk test. Your breathing rate corresponds to your heart rate, increasing as your heart beats faster. When you’re within your target heart rate range, you should be able to talk, but holding a constant conversation should be difficult.

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