How to Use a Heart Rate Monitor to Improve Fitness

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Your heart is speaking to you. Are you listening?

If you want to get serious about your health and fitness, knowing how to understand your heart rate is a key component. Your heart rate is measured by the amount of times it beats per minute. During a rested period, a lower heart rate is actually optimal. This is because a stronger heart pumps more blood to your system per beat than a weaker heart, thus requiring less beats per minute.

Because your heart is a muscle, it becomes stronger as you exercise it. During an aerobic workout, large groups of your body's muscles are used over an extended period of time in a consistent, rhythmic manner.

When being worked this way, your muscles demand oxygen. The harder you work your muscles the more oxygen they require. This oxygen is supplied to your muscles from your lungs via the bloodstream. As a result, your heart pumps faster during a workout in an effort to deliver the additional oxygen that your muscles are demanding.

Measuring your heart rate using a heart rate monitor is a good way to gauge the effectiveness of your workout because as you strengthen your body through exercise you also strengthen your heart. Measuring the rate of your heart during exercise can help you determine when you're pushing your body too hard or need to push it harder to achieve the level of fitness you are seeking.

In order to understand how to condition your body by analyzing your heart rate it's important to understand the four different types.

More: 8 Tips for Long-Term Heart Health

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate (RHR) is the rate that your heart beats per minute during periods of the day when you are most relaxed. Your RHR can be measured after you get out of bed or during a period of the day when you're sitting or relaxing comfortably.

Although heart rates vary between individuals, the average RHR for a man is between 60 to 80 beats per minute. The average for a woman is between 70 to 90. An adult in good shape can have a RHR of in the low 60s while an unhealthy RHR can be as high as 100. A very well conditioned athlete can have a RHR in the 40s. To get an accurate measurement of your resting heart rate by using a heart rate monitor you should take measurements at different rested periods of the day over the course of a week—and then average them out.

More: 5 Ways to Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease