Monitoring your pulse during a workout is the easiest way to gauge your workout intensity during aerobic exercise. It’s simple to do, and it gives a pretty accurate depiction of whether you’re working out too lightly or pushing it too hard. The normal resting heart rate is 60 to 80 beats per minute, according to the American Heart Association. When you exercise, your heart rate can easily be double from that range.
How to Monitor Your Pulse
There are a few ways to monitor your pulse as you workout. You can use a fitness watch designed to monitor your pulse, or use the heart rate monitoring handgrips or chest straps commonly found on modern treadmills or elliptical machines. The easiest method may be to check your own pulse on the underside of your wrist or your neck near your carotid artery. Once you find your pulse with your pointer and middle fingers, count the number of beats for 10 seconds, then multiply that number by six to determine your beats per minute.
Maximal Heart Rate
Your maximal heart rate is the “ceiling” you should try not to exceed during a workout. You can estimate your maximal heart rate by subtracting your age in years from 220, according to the AHA. For example, a 25-year-old’s maximal heart rate is 195 bpm. Exercising at or above your maximal heart rate can put excessive stress on your heart and cardiovascular system.
Target Heart Rate
Your target heart rate is basically your “normal pulse” during exercise, meaning it’s the heart rate you should shoot for during a workout. Your target heart rate is 50 to 85 percent of your maximal heart rate, according to the AHA. Here’s an example: A 25-year-old adult’s target heart rate during exercise is 98 to 165 beats per minute.
Monitor your heart rate periodically as you exercise to make sure your intensity falls within your target heart rate. If you’re new to the gym and aren’t yet in tip-top shape, start off by shooting for closer to 50 percent of your maximal heart rate. Every couple weeks, increase your target by about 5 percent – 55, 60, 65 percent and so on. This is will help progressively increase your physical fitness level at a safe pace. Adjust this plan according to your physical fitness level and progression rate.
Joseph Eitel has written for a variety of respected online publications since 2006 including the Developer Shed Network and Huddle.net. He has dedicated his life to researching and writing about diet, nutrition and exercise. Eitel's health blog, PromoteHealth.info, has become an authority in the healthy-living niche. He graduated with honors from Kellogg Community College in 2010 with an Associate of Applied Science.