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Keeping your finger on the Pulse
May 9, 2017
Heart Rate Monitors.
Coming from a medical background, before embarking on my Personal Training career. It seems only natural for me to use heart rate monitors training my clients. Particularly in light of our ageing population, people with conditions such as heart disease, diabetes hip replacements and high blood pressure. A heart rate monitor can give some insight as to how a person is responding to the level of exercise they are undertaking.
I assume that you all know what an exercise heart rate monitor is. If you don’t, then just go outside, and look at what most people, who exercise regularly, are wearing on their arms or chests. These became very popular in the mid-90s, when people wanted to make sure that they were really training effectively, within their target heart rates. Today not only are they an important part of any exerciser’s kit, but they are now integrated into most exercise equipment as well.
What are the Benefits and Limitations of a heart rate monitor?
If you have a busy schedule and limited time for exercise, a heart rate monitor can help you maximise your workout to achieve the best results. When exercising simply by time or by feel, you may not be elevating your heart rate enough to cause cardiovascular improvement and weight loss. Monitoring your heart rate enables you to set your pace without wasting time at a too-slow or too-fast a level that defeats the purpose of your exercise.
Are you elevating your heart rate enough to lose weight? A heart rate monitor can tell you if you are exercising hard enough –– or too hard –– to burn stored fat. To lose weight, you need to work at a pace between 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate (your max heart rate = 220 – your age) for 30 minutes or more, with short intervals at higher intensity up to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. This will allow you to burn stored body fat, rather than the carbohydrates you just ate, and also improve your resting metabolism.
Training at your target heart rate ( see figure 1) is an important detail for anyone suffering from heart disease, or recovering from an illness. Over training the heart can be very dangerous for these individuals. A heart rate monitor also It helps an exerciser to be more in touch with their bodies and heart rhythms. There are some who have used monitors who have become a master on their heartbeats. In fact, they have become so good at they don’t even use their heart rate monitors any-more.
You can make sure that you are measuring your maximum and resting heart rates accurately. This can help you to stay within your normal training zone, which can help you avoid unwanted injuries and minor accidents from occurring during your workout.
Users commonly complain about inconsistent readings, which make it difficult to track how hard you're working during an activity. This appears to be a problem across the board, from inexpensive monitors to pricey ones.
Medications can increase or decrease heart rate. Stimulants such as caffeine, amphetamines, ephedrine, pseudoephedrine and cocaine can increase heart rate. Beta blockers or Beta-adrenergic blocking agents can lower your heart rate reading, therefore not giving a true indication of the level you are working at. Other factors such as noise, temperature, time of day, diet, alcohol, smoking, exercise, dehydration and altitude, can also, individually or in combination, affect your heart rate reading.
There is no diagnostic tool for over training. While people who have overtrained have a higher variability in their resting heart rate. A heart rate monitor is only able to show the stable, average heart rate. Behaviour such as fatigue, performance decline, mood disturbance and other symptoms are preferable indicators of the over trained.
Even with the limitations of heart rate monitors, they have the potential to provide extremely useful information that can improve the quality of training, track progress and most importantly, reduce over training by ensuring that you don't exercise above the maximum target heart rate for your age. To get the most out of a heart rate monitor, don't forget to also use the body's natural monitor- the brain. Evaluate the variables that the heart rate monitor can't analyse such as your environment, muscle fatigue, pain speed, climbs/ descents, mood, hydration and energy levels.
An exercise heart rate monitor can be an added bonus to anyone, although the level of improvement can be different, depending on each person’s situation. What really matters is your fitness improvement, if that requires measuring and managing your heart rate or just providing a bit a of biofeedback, a heart rate monitor is a relatively inexpensive way to achieve that.