What Is Recovery Heart Rate

checking heart rate

One of the questions you might wonder about if you're relatively new to an active lifestyle is: What is recovery heart rate? While some exercise enthusiasts might not be interested in such a scientific aspect of their workouts, finding out the answer can be informative, help you work out more effectively and alert you to potential problems.

What is Recovery Heart Rate Anyway?

Many active people have a general idea of what to look for in terms of target heart rate while exercising. This target range depends a great deal on your age and fitness level. An easy way to measure your target heart rate is with a heart rate monitor, and if you don't own of of these devices your own fingers and a stopwatch will work. Maintaining a rate below your maximum heart rate is important so that you don't overexert yourself and possibly lead to serious injuries.

Simply defined, recovery heart rate is how much your heart rate falls in the minute after peak exercise. In general, the faster your heart rate returns to normal, the more fit you are.

How Useful Is It?

How else does measuring heart rate recovery help you? Doctors may use heart rate recovery as a way to determine if a patient is at risk for heart problems. Abnormal heart rate recovery-or a decrease of 12 or fewer beats per minute-might indicate heart disease. Normal heart rate recovery is considered to be a decrease of 15 to 25 beats per minute. While not a comprehensive test, this is one of the simpler ways to alert health professionals to a potential problem.

Anyone in the normal heart rate recovery group probably has a less than one-percent chance of a major health problem, but abnormal heart rate recovery patients may see a risk of three to five percent per year. Factors that contribute to abnormal heart rate recovery include:

  • Smoking
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Obesity
  • Blood vessel blockage

Some doctors feel that heart rate recovery testing should be routinely administered to all patients as a method for early indicator of potential problems. Because this test is noninvasive and inexpensive, a lot of patients are more than willing to undergo the simple steps required, which often involve something as easy as exercising on a treadmill.

Measuring Recovery Heart Rate

If you don't have a heart rate monitor, but want to measure your heart rate recovery yourself after exercising, you can use the uncomplicated method of placing your index and middle fingers against your carotid artery in your neck or your radial artery under your wrist. Either count for a full 60 seconds (a stopwatch is very helpful for this step) or for six seconds and multiply that number by 10. You should first measure your heart rate while you're working out at your peak level and compare that number of beats per minute to the number of beats immediately after you stop, followed again by a measurement at one and two minutes post-workout.

Even if you're in good health and don't need to see a doctor for a heart condition, you can see if you're becoming more fit by how quickly your heart rate drops after you stop moving. If one of your goals is to achieve optimum fitness, this is a simple and useful way to tell if you're on the right track. You can measure your heart rate recovery and the higher your rate of decreasing heartbeats per minute, the fitter you're becoming.

Not Just for Fitness

Recreational exercisers, athletes and at-risk patients can all use the answer to the question "What is recovery heart rate?" to their benefit. At it's most serious, it can alert a physician to potential heart problems, but for less serious concerns, it can simply let someone know if their fitness level is improving. If you have any questions or if heart disease runs in your family, you should of course alert your doctor and not just rely on this test, but for anyone, it's another useful tool in helping to achieve an all-around healthy lifestyle.

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What Is Recovery Heart Rate