When you work out you start breathing heavier and your heart starts beating faster to deliver more oxygen to your muscles. Just how fast your heart beats during exercise can depend on several factors, including your age and your fitness level. If you're working out and you find that your heart is beating too fast for your comfort level -- or you've exceeded what you believe to be your maximum heart rate -- it's probably a good idea to slow down your heart rate.
Determine your suggested maximum and target heart rates so you can determine what is "normal." There are multiple theories as to the best way to calculate maximum heart rate; while "220 minus your age" was once the traditional formula, newer research has found that this may not be as accurate as other formulas. One newer formula is to multiply your age by 0.85 and then subtract that number from 217. You can also use an online calculator to get a target range.
Test your heart rate by placing the pointer and middle fingers of one hand on your carotid artery of your neck, or on the inside of your wrist just below your thumb. Count the number of beats in 10 seconds, and then multiply that by six. That is your current heart rate. If it is significantly higher than your suggested maximum heart rate, or you simply feel your heart is beating too fast, you may need to take steps to slow it down.
Reduce the speed of the exercise you're currently doing. If you're running, slow down to a jog. If you're cycling, cycle slower. If you're doing aerobics or some other type of group exercise, move to the back of the room and jog or walk in place. The key here is not to stop exercising all together, as you don't want your heart rate to slow too quickly either. That may cause you to feel dizzy or get blood pooling in your legs.
Cool down for five to 10 minutes following your workout, to normalize your blood flow slowly. Walk, jog or cycle slowly until you feel your heart returning to a normal rate.
- If you slow down your workout and your feel you're at a more comfortable heart rate, continue your workout at the new pace. If you feel you've recovered adequately and want to continue your workout, ramp up your intensity again.
Nicole Vulcan has been a journalist since 1997, covering parenting and fitness for The Oregonian, careers for CareerAddict, and travel, gardening and fitness for Black Hills Woman and other publications. Vulcan holds a Bachelor of Arts in English and journalism from the University of Minnesota. She's also a lifelong athlete and is pursuing certification as a personal trainer.