Water provides a comfortable, no-impact atmosphere for your workouts. Swimming is an excellent cardiovascular workout to burn calories, improve your overall health, and teach you a skill. Your heart pumps blood to your working muscles in this reduced-gravity environment. The weightless feeling you experience, your horizontal body position, along with the pressure of the water against your lungs, and the water temperature all affect your pulse differently than when you exercise on land. To adjust for these factors, your maximum heart rate is lowered so you do not overestimate your heart rate training zone.
Subtract your age from 220 to determine your land-based maximum heart rate. For example, if you are 30, your maximum heart rate is 190, or 220 minus 30.
Reduce your maximum heart rate by 13 beats per minute. For example, if your maximum heart rate is 190, your aquatic-based maximum heart rate is 219.
Use your maximum heart rate to determine your exercise target heart rate zone. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.60 and 0.80 for the low and high swimming pulse range. For example, a 30-year-olds swimming target heart rate is 131 to 175 beats per minute.
- Aquatic Exercise Association: Standards and Guidelines
- Exercise Physiology: Nutrition, Energy and Human Performance; William D. McArcle, Frank I. Katch, Victor L. Katch
- Cleveland Clinic: Pulse and Target Heart Rate
- Wear a heart rate monitor that can be submerged to keep accurate track of your exercise heart rate so you do not exceed your maximum heart rate during swimming.
- Another way to monitor your swimming workout intensity is to use a rate of perceived exertion. Instead wearing a heart rate monitor, ask yourself how difficult is the workout. Aim to exercise at an intensity level that feels hard to somewhat hard and you'll be well below your maximum heart rate.
- Check with your doctor to adjust your heart rate if you have any chronic health conditions or take medications that alter your pulse such as beta-blockers and blood pressure medications.
A mother of two and passionate fitness presenter, Lisa M. Wolfe had her first fitness article published in 2001. She is the author of six fitness books and holds an Associate of Arts in exercise science from Oakland Community College. When not writing, Wolfe is hula-hooping, kayaking, walking or cycling.