heart rate

Why and How to Track Your Heart Rate

Wearable technology is (still) on the up! According to the American College of Sports Medicine, it remains the top trend in the exercise industry for 2023 – and it’s a trend we can definitely get behind! 

We’re big fans of wearable technology and have been using it with our customers for years now. Some of our favorite features include heart rate variability (HRV), sleep and movement tracking. 

There is one great feature that’s not talked about much however, and that’s heart rate tracking!


Why track my heart rate?


We don’t need to tell you how important cardiovascular function is for health. Heart rate gives us lots of helpful hints in relation to this function. It provides us a useful tool not only in monitoring it day by day, but in improving it efficiently and effectively through exercise. 

At rest, a normal heart rate is anywhere between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). Generally, improved cardiovascular fitness will result in a lower resting heart rate and on the opposite side, declines in function or a stressed system can lift your resting heart rate. For this reason, it can be useful to know what a normal resting heart rate is for you so you can be aware of any changes. 

When it comes to exercise, tracking your heart rate becomes a real game changer. Improving cardiovascular fitness is about more than just moving. Different intensities will target different adaptations and if you’re not thinking about this, it’s likely that you could be getting a lot more from your workouts! For example, someone who wants to improve their stamina for the big hike they’re going on this spring should be training at a different heart rate to someone who wants to get faster to breakaway and score goals for the social soccer team. Not to mention that managing intensity is key to avoid plateaus and conversely, over-training. 

*Keep in mind that some medications do impact heart rate, so make sure to check with your doctor if this might be you. 

Sounds great, but how do I track my heart rate? 

There was a day when measuring exercise heart rate for the average Joe involved stopping, finding your pulse, starting a timer and counting how many beats you felt within 30-60 seconds and then quickly getting back into it. Thankfully, the rise of wearable technology means this is no longer the case as it is more accessible than ever!

There are two main ways to track your heart rate using wearable technology: 

    1. An optical heart rate monitor; most commonly wrist-based (watches), but also arm-based, these monitors measure the pulse on the arteries caused by heart beats  
    2. A chest strap; these monitors directly measure electrical activity using ECG-based technology. Generally they link up with your watch, phone or the cardio devices themselves via bluetooth. 

Although ECG-based technology is recommended for best accuracy, optical sensors have evolved massively in recent years and are becoming a fantastic tool. The main thing is to make sure you are wearing it with the correct placement and pressure. Two of our favorite brands to use with customers include polar (who do both types of monitors) and garmin, but there are many great brands out there to choose from!

Once you have decided on your tool of choice and you’ve got heart rate data at your fingertips, that’s when it’s time to get in the zone. . . heart rate zones that is!

Keep an eye out for next week’s blog to find out exactly how to put your individualised data to work and get the most out of your exercise sessions using heart rate zones. 


Author: Tessa Nielsen
Clinical Exercise Physiologist and Content Creator at Specialised Health

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