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09 Feb 2006

High heart rate when exercising
When I exercise, my heart rate seems to very easily go too high. Esp noticeble on an exercise bike if only because it has a handy heart rate monitor. I am 28, female, and within a few minutes, my heart will hit 160 to 170, and I need to slow down to reduce the rate. I experience no symptoms of chest pain or shortness of breath, even if I keep the heart rate at this level for 5 or more minutes. Do I need to be careful and keep my heart rate lower - I have been told the normal range is 140 - 155 bpm - or can I exercise at a level which is comfortable?
Thank you
Answer 396 views

01 Jan 0001

Hi Al

I agree completely with Julien on the forum - you should not worry about the size of the number, it's misleading to apply an equation or a 'normal' range, because what works for one person is not necessarily ideal for another. So rather than worry that your heart rate is too high, try rather to interpret it over time FOR YOU ONLY. I have come across very good runners, who, if they tried to obey this rule, would be walking just to make sure their heart rate did not get too high. You can't tell people like that that they must slow down because they are not getting fitter. Similarly, I know people who have a naturally low heart rate, and for them to get their HR up to the 'ideal' range, they just about have to sprint until they collapse from exhaustion two minutes later. So the bottom line is that the actual value of your heart rate is not that important, it's ranges that you can use, but don't get too hung on the number. What you need to do instead is use your own heart rate from one day to the next to help you understand how your training is developing.

For example, you might do a 40 minute run at 75 to 80% of maximum, and this is a good session for weight loss and improved fitness. Generally, aim to train for between 30 and 45 minutes per session (at least) and on 4 to 5 days per week. The intensity, as mentioned, will range between 70 and 90% of maximum, depending on the exercise you do and the goals for that session. For improved performance, train at 85% of max and above. For weight loss and fitness, train at between 70 and 80% of maximum.

Do not get caught up in to believing the heart rate monitor as the final authority in your fitness level. The best way to use your heart rate monitor is to use it to compare training sessions from week to week. Therefore, if you train one day doing a particular session, take note of your heart rate. The next time you do the exact same session (say 30 minutes run at 12 km/hour), you should be able to compare your heart rate during the session. If it is lower, then it indicates that you are fitter than before, and your training is going well. If it is higher, then it shows that you are either tired, or training too hard or are possibly becoming ill. This is a sign that you are in need of a few easy training days.

It is important that you don't think of heart rate as the absolute indication of fitness or health. It is the differences between heart rates in exactly the same session that is important, and understanding how your own individual heart rate differs from week to week will allow you to train with great precision.

Lastly, remember that heart rate depends on many factors - hydration, mood, stress levels, temperature and so on. Therefore, if your heart rate is not exactly what you think it should be, don't worry too much. Rather look at long term changes and patterns in heart rate, and try to interpret them as I explained above.

Good luck
The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical examination, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.
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