If you want to strengthen your heart, you’ll need to know where you’re starting. Our health can often be summarized by the condition of our hearts.
Do you know your resting heart rate? Do you know what your heart rate is when you’re exercising?
The stronger our hearts are the more efficient it can pump blood through our body.
The stronger our heart beats, the less frequent it needs to beat to accomplish the same thing (i.e. fewer pump strokes for the same amount of blood flow).
The average resting heart rate for non-athletes is said to be 70 for males and 75 for females.
And as a point of comparison, Lance Armstrong’s resting heart rate was once measured at 32 beats per minute (bpm). But for the rest of us mortals, we should just strive for self-improvement!
The key to strengthen your heart is exercise. This added stress will cause our hearts to beat faster to help us accomplish the workout. According to the American Heart Association, this increased heart rate should be between 50-85% of our Maximum Heart Rate (which is 220 minus our age). For example, a 50 year-old would have an MHR of 170 bpm and an aerobic range of 85 – 136 bpm.
One way to tell if you are in an aerobic range is to try to maintain a conversation. If you are gasping for air, you are not in a sustainable aerobic range (i.e. Slow down!). Another way is to get a heart rate monitor. Many running watches come with heart rate monitors now-a-days and they’re quite a handy piece of gear. In fact, I just wrote a recent product review about my FitBit Surge, of which i'm a huge fan. The Surge measures your heart rate on your wrist all day (no uncomfortable chest strap!). I've had this watch now for almost a year and it has given me some great heart rate data! Check it out if you’re looking for a new fitness / running watch.
The plan to strengthen your heart is a lot like our fitness plan. First, figure out where you are by measuring your resting heart rate and aerobic heart rate. Continue to measure your progress as you gradually implement your exercise routine. You’ll notice improvement as your resting heart rate lowers, your aerobic-zone heart rate lowers, and your recovery time shortens. These are all good signs that your heart is getting stronger.
In addition to telling us when our heart is getting stronger, our heart rate can also tell us things like when we’re under other stresses, when we’re sick or fighting infection, or when we just need a day off from exercise. Listen to your heart and you’ll be able to measure progress in another way!
You can find this article and other motivational fitness information in the March 2009 article of The Bullhorn.