When we think about health and fitness, the subject of heart rate will often come to mind. It is something that gym instructors will talk about in PT sessions and classes, it will be displayed on exercise equipment as we work out and perhaps something that health professionals will mention as they discuss how much exercise you should be doing.

But why is monitoring your heart rate important? And what should your heart rate be when you exercise? We have tried to answer some of your burning questions.

Why is heart rate important?

Your heart rate is an indicator of your overall health. You may have underlying issues if your heart rate is too fast or too slow, and it will tell you whether your heart is in good condition. Knowing about any issues as early as possible is key to getting the right help and treatment that will ensure you will be able to lead a long and healthy life. 

How do I measure my heart rate?

If you are worried about your heart rate, then you should see your doctor as soon as you can for a proper check up. Otherwise, you can take your pulse by placing your index finger and middle finger on the underside of your wrist, where you will feel a light beating. You should then count the number of beats that you feel for 60 seconds and this will be your heart rate.

You can also check your heart rate by using apps on your phone or by placing your hands on certain exercise equipment. Just be aware that these results can differ depending on the sensitivity of the equipment. 

What should my standing heart rate be?

An average heart rate for a resting adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute. If you are extremely fit then your heart rate may be lower, in the region of 40 to 60bpm. It will also be higher following exercise.

What should my heart rate be when I exercise?

Your heart rate when you exercise should be between 50% and 70% of your target heart rate. You can find an easy to use calculator on the British Heart Foundation website, which will tell you what your heart rate should be for your age. 

Regular exercise will help you to improve your heart rate and overall condition. The heart is a muscle so it is possible to train it, which can have a positive impact on all areas of your life, such as energy, mood and even sleep.