With any type of exercise, even for those considered in excellent physical condition, a key starting point is to understand the health of your heart. Sadly, for one out of four people, the first warning of an underlying heart problem is sudden cardiac death. The heart is the most important muscle but most often overlooked muscle in the body.
"Men especially need to get to know their heart, better than they know how to work a power drill or their car engines," says Craig Sather, Physical Therapist at Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare – St. Francis. "Knowing how to check your heart rate, rhythm and quality of the pulse both at rest and with light and heavy activity can help you better understand your overall health, and could also be a lifesaver!"
Sather suggests the following steps to find and monitor your pulse rate:
- Take one of your hands and place the backside of the wrist on the palm of the other hand.
- Take your index and middle finger and wrap it around to the front side of the wrist right next to the wrist bone underneath your thumb. You should be able to feel a pulse here, at the radial artery.
- Assuming you’ve found your pulse, practice timing it to see how many resting beats per minute there are. You can take the pulse for 10, 15, 20 or 30 seconds and then multiply by 6, 4, 3 or 2 respectively. If you find you are at exactly 60 beats per minute, make sure you are not counting the seconds on your wristwatch instead of your heart rate. If you’re not sure, look at your watch, close your eyes and count 30 heartbeats. If when you open your eyes, and less than 30 seconds have passed, you are probably not accurate. Practice until you get it right
The better you get at taking your pulse, the fewer seconds you will need to get a quick check. The advantage to taking your pulse for 30 seconds is accuracy. The advantage to taking the pulse for 10 seconds is that you get a more accurate “spot check” when you are exercising. Since the heart rate fluctuates, if you take the 30 second heart rate after exercise, your heart rate may be (and should be!) dropping off with time and you may get a false sense of security by thinking your heart rate is lower during exercise than it really was. If you are on certain medications, your heart rate may be either abnormally elevated or suppressed.
The average resting heart rate ranges from 60 beats per minute up to 100 beats per minute. In general, 60 beats a minute is considered to be on the good side of the ledger, as it means your heart does fewer beats over a lifetime and theoretically will last longer than the person who has a resting heart rate closer to 100 beats per minute.
Compare your results with the “target heart rate” for your age and gender. (Charts below). Check with your physician before starting any exercise program or if your pulse rate is higher than it should be at both rest and during exercise. There is a time and place for exercise, and there is a time and place to not exercise. Don’t take chances. If you have a concern, discuss it with your physician!
Heart Rate Charts
|Heart Rate Chart: Babies to Adults|
Beats Per Minute (BPM)
|Babies to Age 1||100 – 160|
|Children ages 1-10||60 – 140|
|Children age 10+ and adults||60 – 100|
|Athletes||40 – 60|
Min-max Heart Rate (BPM)
|15||123 – 164|
|20||120 – 160|
|25||117 – 156|
|30||114 – 152|
|35||111 – 148|
|40||108 – 144|
|45||105 – 140|
|50||102 – 136|
|55||99 – 132|
|60||96 – 128|
|65||90 – 120|
|70||90 – 120|
|75||87 – 116|
For more information on heart and vascular health or to find a Wheaton Franciscan Healthcare physician, visit us at www.mywheaton.org.