The Right Heart Rate: Different Pulse Frequencies for Different Purposes

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In sports, different pulse frequencies for different purposes indicate the fitness level of an athlete. What this means is that the rate at which an athlete’s heart beats, shows how fit the individual is.  As such, pulse frequencies while resting will be different from those measured during exercise and can suggest the measure of cardiac capacity of the athlete.

Measuring different pulse frequencies for different purposes will also reveal information about the general state of health of an athlete. At rest, the heart rate is a good measure for not only fitness levels but also the presence of any stress or disease. On the other hand, during bouts of exercise the same will express the exercise intensity as well as the threshold of fatigue.

How is pulse frequency measured?

Pulse frequencies can be taken at any spot on the body where an artery is close to the surface such as the neck or the wrist. Manually the technique uses placing the index and middle finger on the spot and counting the number of beats for one minute.  Or you can use a monitor that does the same but somewhat more accurately.

Measuring accurate pulse rates is also important for athletes when they wish to record any changes in the pulse frequency over short periods.

What is resting heart rate?

This is the number of beats the heart produces when an individual is at rest. The resting heart rate will vary with an individual’s age as well as their fitness level. As a rule of the thumb, the fitter a person, the lower their resting heart rate. This is because a heart gets stronger and bigger with exercise and becomes more efficient at pumping blood. So when at rest, more blood can be pumped around the body with each beat.

Typical resting pulse frequencies range between 40 and 100 beats per minute. For men the ideal pulse rate is estimated at 70 while for women the figure is 75. With improving fitness levels, this number should drop as your heart becomes stronger.

Pulse frequency during exercise

How hard you work during exercise will be measured by the exercise heart rate. This will depend on the exercise intensity, your fitness level along with maximum heart rate that is dictated to some extent by your age. Together the three factors give a reading of pulse rates that should decrease for any exercise workload as you get fitter.

What is maximum heart rate?

This figure accounts for the highest number of heartbeats per minute when an athlete exercises maximally. To get an accurate figure for your maximum heart rate, it is recommended to measure it during a maximal exercise test where the body is pushed to its limit.

It is helpful for athletes to know this figure as it gives them an indicator of their ultimate endurance capacity. The number can be calculated by gradually increasing the pulse rate while increasing the workload and reaching a peak limit. As soon as the exercise is completed the pulse frequency will also start to drop.

The best way to measure maximum heart rate is by using a heart rate monitor.

What are the different heart rate training zones?

These training zones are determined by looking at an athlete’s maximum heart rate as well as their resting heart rate. Typically, the training zones can be divided into the following categories:

The recovery zone:

Working in the recovery zone aims at building elemental endurance and aerobic competence. When training at this rate, the individual can perform at a maximum of 70% with training conditions optimal for fat burning as well as reenergizing muscles. Here the major source of fuel will be fat which can be targeted to burn.

The aerobic zone:

Working out in this zone helps develop the cardiovascular system. Here the athlete strives toward becoming fitter as they will now be performing between 70 and 80 % of their capacity. Individuals who work in this zone are often looking for losing weight as the exercise is now intense enough to target carbohydrate fuelling. A lot of endurance athletes also aim at working in this zone.

The anaerobic zone:

Tougher than most, anaerobic training involves training without oxygen. Usually anaerobic exercises focus on short span, high intensity moves that can last between a few seconds to up to two minutes. After the two minutes are over, the body’s aerobic system kicks in. Training in the anaerobic zone means working at 80- 90 % of an athlete’s capacity and exerting the maximum pulse rate and above.

The result is creating EPOC or excess post exercise oxygen consumption which can easily result in an after burn of calories lasting up to 38 hours after the exercise. Additional benefits for the athlete also include developing strength, efficient use of time, and a more lean body all the while increasing their VO2 max (maximal oxygen consumption).

The redline zone:

Working out in this extreme zone is only possible for short bouts. It is most suitable for athletes who are super fit and are working with a lot of interval training, with high intensity short bursts followed by dropping down to a lower intensity for several minutes and then repeating again.

Working out in this zone requires performing at 90-100% of the maximum heart rate and will leave athletes breathless and gasping for words. Performing at this rate helps burn the most calories with 90% of the burn coming from carbohydrates and only 10% from fat.

How do you feel about different heart rates and their effect on the body? Share your experience in the comments below!

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