Your heart rate

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm). A normal heart rate is between 60 and 100 bpm while you’re resting.

However, it will vary depending on when it’s measured and what you were doing immediately before the reading.

How do I measure my heart rate?

You can measure your heart rate manually, by checking your pulse. However, you may find it useful to buy a heart rate monitor. There are lots available and they can be found in most big high street shops and department stores, including larger supermarkets and pharmacies.

Which type you choose will depend on what you want it to do, for example some heart rate monitors have additional built in features such as a calorie counter. If you simply want to measure your heart rate, choose a basic and inexpensive one.

Why should I measure my heart rate?

Measuring your heart rate can help you track your fitness and monitor if you’re exercising at the right level for you.

Your heart, like any other muscle, needs physical activity to keep it healthy. In most cases regular exercise can help improve your overall health and improve many of the risk factors for heart and circulatory diseases, such as diabetes.

What is a target heart rate?

Your target heart rate (THR) is between 50% and 70% of your maximum heart rate. You should aim to exercise with your heart rate between these two figures. Your target heart rate will make sure you increase your fitness and strength safely.

If you have a heart condition, check with your doctor before doing any new exercises, in case they aren’t suitable. You should also warm up and cool down before and after exercising to avoid injury to your muscles.

How do I work out my heart rate?

The maximum heart rate depends on your age.

  1. First take your age away from 220. This is your maximum heart rate.
  2. Work out 50% of your maximum heart rate.
  3. Work out 70% of your maximum heart rate.
  4. Your heart rate should remain between these two numbers when you’re exercising.

For example, if you’re 42 years old you should calculate 220 – 42 = 178 bpm. This is your maximum heart rate.

Then work out your target heart rate by dividing 178 by 100, and multiply it by 50 = 89bpm.

Next divide, 178 by 100, and multiply it by 70 = 125bpm.

Therefore, a 42 year old person should aim to exercise with their heart rate between 89 and 125 bpm.

If you have a heart condition

If you have a heart condition, in most cases, you’ll still benefit from regular physical activity but you should check with your doctor if you have any concerns.

Some medicines used to treat heart conditions can slow down your heart rate and prevent the heart from responding as it normally would. If you are taking medicines, such as beta blockers, it may be easier and more effective to do the ‘talk test’ while you are exercising. If, while you are walking, you feel warm and are breathing more heavily than normal, but you can still talk, you are probably walking at the right pace.

For more information

  • Call us on 0300 330 3311 to speak to one of our nurses on our Heart Helpline between 9am – 5pm, Monday to Friday.
  • Join our online community, HealthUnlocked to speak to people affected by the same condition.