Is a High Heart Rate During Exercise Good or Bad?

Woman checking her pulse on treadmill at gym
Learn what your heart rate should be during physical activity. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

The impact of exercise on your heart rate can be a complex concept to understand. Your heart rate will definitely increase as your activity level rises, but there is a healthy range for your heart rate, and anything outside of that may be an indicator of a heart condition. Learning how to calculate your heart rate ranges can be a valuable tool not only for monitoring your health, but also ensuring you get the most out of your workouts.

Resting Heart Rate

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Your resting heart rate is most accurately recorded first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. (Image: BananaStock/BananaStock/Getty Images)

Your resting heart rate is most accurately recorded first thing in the morning when you get out of bed. A normal resting heart rate is generally between 60 and 100 beats per minute, but may be as low as 40 bpm for a highly trained athlete. This heart rate reading is a good indicator of your cardiovascular health. As you become more physically fit, your heart will beat fewer times per minute because it has become efficient.

Maximum Heart Rate

Maximum heart rate has long been estimated by a basic formula known as the Karvonen formula. This is the rate at which you are pushing your body beyond the fat-burning zone and begin using glucose. It is generally when you begin breathing very hard and feel incapable of any conversation. The less fit you are, the more quickly your heart will reach this number. To calculate your maximum heart rate using the formula, simply subtract your age from 220. There is much speculation surrounding this formula, although it is used by many people: fitness professionals, academic professors and authors, as well as cardiologists and other medical experts. To get the most accurate maximum heart rate, it is best to participate in a maximal heart rate test administered by a fitness professional. However if your access to such a test is limited, the Karvonen will give you a suitable estimate.

Target Heart Rate

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Your target heart rate varies based upon the goals you have established for a particular workout or your personal physical fitness. (Image: Pixland/Pixland/Getty Images)

Your target heart rate varies based upon the goals you have established for a particular workout or your personal physical fitness. Your target heart rate is calculated as a percentage of your maximum. If you are new to working out or have a low level of fitness, you may want to keep your heart rate between 45 and 55 percent, or if you are more fit, you may prefer to train between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Once you choose your training levels, you will multiply your maximum heart rate by each percentage and then keep your heart rate during your workout between those two numbers. Making adjustments to these numbers can help you build a dynamic cardiovascular training program and make your heart work more efficiently for you.

Cardiovascular Efficiency

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Regardless of whether it is something as simple as walking up a flight of stairs at work or your actual workouts, a heart rate closer to your resting heart rate means greater efficiency. (Image: Stuart Jenner/iStock/Getty Images)

Ultimately, the higher your heart rate is at rest or during a workout, the less efficient your heart is at supporting your activities. Regardless of whether it is something as simple as walking up a flight of stairs at work or your actual workouts, a heart rate closer to your resting heart rate means greater efficiency. Challenging yourself at a variety of heart rate ranges by creating dynamic workout programs can improve your cardiovascular fitness for all activities. As you become more efficient, your heart rate will be lower at higher and higher intensities of physical exertion. Consult your doctor before making engaging in a new physical fitness plan.

Be Sensible

Woman doing crunches in gym
When you're the one in the midst of a workout, you also have to determine what is good or bad for you. (Image: Brand X Pictures/Stockbyte/Getty Images)

Target heart rates are based on scientific studies; but when you're the one in the midst of a workout, you also have to determine what is good or bad for you. An elevated heart rate can feel good or it can feel bad when you're over exerting, when exercising after very little activity or if you have high blood pressure or a heart condition. Your body will let you know which is which. The thing to take away from here is to strive for your target heart rate over time and when your fitness level warrants it.

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