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How to Use Heart Rate Data to Improve Your Workouts

Why tracking biometric data can lead to improved cardiac health and increased workout intensity.

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Data is key when it comes to benchmarking fitness progress. Heart rate monitors have long been used by fitness enthusiasts to help them gauge the intensity of their workouts. In more recent years, people have turned to fitness trackers, which monitor the heart rate among other things, such as steps, blood pressure, body composition, calories, and even sleep. Tracking your heart rate is an especially important measurement, as it can shed light on your heart health, fitness level, and even state of mind. However, it’s important to understand what the numbers mean in order to use the data properly.  

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What does heart rate mean and what is normal?
  • Heart rate is the number of times your heart pulses or beats per minute. According to the American Heart Association (AHA), the average heart rate for most people is somewhere between 60 to 100 beats per minute. If you are fit, this number should be on the lower end and possibly in the 40 to 50 bpm range. 
  • This number can fluctuate in response to a variety of factors including stress, hormones, medication, and activity levels.
  • It is a good idea to track your heart rate over time to monitor changes in your heart patterns. If your resting heart rate is consistently outside of the average range, which is above 100 or below 60 bpm, it may be a good time to check in with your physician to rule out any underlying conditions.
What happens to your heart during exercise?
  • When you exercise, your muscles require more and more oxygen. In order to keep up with the demand, the heart beats faster and harder. This process assists the veins to constrict to speed up the blood flow through the body and circulate it back to the heart.
  • As your workout slows down, so will your heart rate. Once you are finished with your workout, your heart rate will slowly return to normal.   
How do you track heart rate measurements?
  • Manual measurements can be done by lightly pressing two fingers on the opposite wrist just below the thumb. Hold and count the number of beats for 30 seconds, take that number and multiply by two. 
  • A fitness tracker is a great investment in your heart health. There are several wearable devices that track and store the collected data. This is helpful for tracking your measurements over time. Here are some options to consider:

What is your target heart rate during a workout?
  • Several factors can have an impact on heart rate during a workout including age, physical fitness, and workout intensity. 
  • The AHA suggests the following maximum and target heart rate averages by age.
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https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates
Find your Heart Rate Zone
  • As you exercise, check your heart rate occasionally to see where your heart rate is trending. The more intense the workout, the higher expected heart rate increase.  
  • Moderate intensity workouts should range between 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • High intensity workouts should range around 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Work your heart out

Tracking patterns in your heart rate is beneficial for heart health by creating a visual representation of your heart’s strength. However, it is always important to listen to your body. Don’t rely solely on a fitness tracker or a heart rate monitor to show your success. Take it at your own pace and increase intensity over time. Data is a great tool, but you are the machine. 

For more on how technology can help you boost your fitness levels, check out Biohacking for Healthier Bodies.

About The Author
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Kristin Borland is a Los Angeles-based Pilates and wellness instructor. She has been practicing Pilates in various disciplines for several years and believes that Pilates can benefit everyone and ultimately transform the body. Along with her Reiki practice, she continues to learn through UCLA’s Mindful Awareness Research Center. Her goal is to teach our bodies, minds, and souls to be stronger and healthier to live a more fulfilled life. Kristin also works as a public relations specialist and has worked with big name brands and clients that have been featured in several national publications.