Does Doing Different Exercises Affect Your Heart Differently?

Your heart works harder depending on what type of exercise you do.
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Your heart works harder to pump blood around your body depending on what type of physical exercise you’re taking part in. The two main types of exercise -- aerobic and anaerobic -- have the most effect on heart rate. But there are a few other things to take into account too, such as how tired you are, how much stress you’re feeling, any medications you’re taking and even how big your last meal was.

Heart Rate

    The more muscles you use, the higher the heart rate. Your heart rate is a measurement of the number of contractions it takes for your heart to pump blood around your body. The way to measure how exercise affects your heart is to first determine your maximum heart rate. The basic way to do this is to subtract your age from 220. For instance, if you’re 28, you would have a maximum heart rate of 192. Once you have your base figure, you can work out where your heart rate will be during different kinds of exercise.

Light Exercise

    Exercise classes designed to stretch your body and increase flexibility and range of motion in muscles and joints can be considered light exercise. These types of classes also teach correct posture and deep breathing, both of which will affect your heart rate. Chores around the house and general errands count too. These types of activities will add up to between 40 and 50 percent of your maximum heart rate -- roughly half.

Moderate Exercise

    This is the aerobic range of exercises that works your cardiovascular system. Activities include simple things like brisk walking, running and riding a bike, as well as taking part in a full-on boxing-inspired combat class. Aerobic exercise increases the number of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body and a good flow of oxygen helps the body to break down fuel and generate energy. Aerobic exercise is often performed at a low intensity for extended periods of time and it's a great way to burn fat and excess calories from your daily diet. Moderate aerobic exercise adds up to between 50 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Vigorous Exercise

    The anaerobic range of exercise includes weight and resistance training using natural gravity, body weight, free weights and machines to increase muscle mass. Anaerobic exercises normally last for short periods at a high intensity -- typically about two minutes at a time. The aim is to increase stamina, endurance and power. Anaerobic exercise adds up to between 70 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Other Factors

    Your heart rate will be higher if you’re using upper and lower muscle groups at the same time -- for instance, if you’re using a cross trainer. Environmental factors affect heart rate as well; if you're swimming in a cool pool, your heart rate will be lower than if you’re taking a dance-inspired workout class in a hot studio.


    As with all forms of exercise, always check with your doctor first to make sure it’s safe for you to perform anything physical or strenuous. Take into account any medical conditions you have, and young or new moms should take extra care when setting out to get back into shape. If you’re just starting out, make sure to take things slowly. Go for low-intensity aerobic workouts and some light weight training for a few weeks and then when you’re ready, slowly increase the intensity. Push yourself, but always remember to listen to your body and ease back if you find things too tough. Always seek the advice of a gym instructor, trainer or other qualified person.

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