Is your ticker healthy enough to pass a test? Heart disease is the leading cause of mortality in America. And yet, many of us don’t consider the condition of our heart until there is a life-threatening problem. There are a number of contributing factors that increase the likelihood of developing this deadly disease, such as poor diet, physical inactivity, obesity, stress, and age. Luckily, knowledge is power when it comes to protecting your heart.
Since it’s challenging to know the state of our internal organs, it’s important to consult your physician for information and assessments, especially if you are experiencing symptoms, if you’re older, or if you have underlying health problems. If you’re in any doubt, check with your doctor before trying this at-home Heart Rate Recovery Test.
A typical resting heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute. The best time of day to calculate your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning, before physical activity. Measure this by setting a stopwatch for 15 seconds, then take your pulse. To find your pulse, trace your fingers down the outer thumb, stopping right below the fleshy part of the palm. Multiply this number by four for your resting heart rate. Athletes and those in peak physical shape tend to have lower heart rates since their heart is so well-conditioned, it doesn’t need to work as hard to pump blood throughout the body.
During exercise, your heart rate should elevate well beyond resting range. And while this number is valuable, it’s your heart’s ability to recover post-workout that is more significant. A strong heart should see a substantial drop in its beats per minute within the first minute of recovery. After that, an ideal decrease is around 20 beats per minute. Ultimately, the faster the heart recovers, the fitter it is.
Here’s how the Heart Rate Recovery Test works:
If you experience dizziness, fatigue, shortness of breath, or an irregular heartbeat while practicing this exercise, stop immediately and call your doctor.
Step 1. Measure your resting heart rate. This can be found on the wrist, or below the jawline on the neck.
Step 2. Set your stopwatch for a two-minute, fast-paced walk, jog, elliptical rotation, jumping rope — anything that will get your heart pumping. The goal is to get to about 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. To find your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age from 220. Try not to reduce your intensity level until you hit this percentage.
Step 3. Once you hit this range, stop. Use two fingertips to press lightly on your pulse.
Step 4. Write down your heart rate immediately after exertion. For the next five minutes, jot down your heart rate each minute. Compare how your heart rate is recovering during this time period. If the heart has not returned to its original resting rate, continue measuring it until it begins to even out.
The first minute after intense exercise should represent the most drastic drop in heart rate. After this, it will slowly level off. If it takes a while for your heart to return to a resting number, consult your physician.
Your heart works hard to keep you alive. Return the favor by taking care of your ticker. Healthy habits like eating well, sleeping soundly, managing stress, and exercising will all help to strengthen and protect your blood pumper.
Ashley Blake Greenblatt, ACE-CPT, is a certified personal trainer and wellness coach. To learn more about her virtual training program, visit ashleyblakefitness.com.