Taking Your Exercise Pulse

Measure Your Heart Rate While Exercising

Taking Exercise Pulse
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Your exercise pulse rate is a good measure of the intensity of your workout, which is indicated by how fast your heart is beating. You can take your exercise pulse by hand, or use an app, pulse monitor, heart rate monitor, or fitness band.

Your heart rate will slow if you stop moving, so it is important to check your pulse quickly if using the manual method or a pulse monitor, counting for only 10 to 15 seconds.

It is more accurate to use a chest strap heart rate monitor or fitness band that reads your rate continuously.

To find your resting heart rate, take your pulse in the morning while still in bed.

How to Take Your Neck Pulse by Hand

  • You will need a timing device that shows seconds, so switch to stopwatch mode on your smartphone clock or use a watch, clock or timer that has a second hand.
  • Use two fingers and do not use your thumb as it has its own pulse. It is often easiest to find your pulse in the carotid arteries, which are on either side of your windpipe. Start feeling for it just beneath your jaw, next to your windpipe.
  • Once you locate the pulse, press lightly. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six, or count for 15 seconds and multiply by four.
  • You may need to stop to do this at first, but once you are able to locate it, try to keep walking slowly or marching in place while taking your pulse to keep it from slowing.

    Examples:
    20 beats for 10 seconds = 120 beats per minute.
    20 beats for 15 seconds = 80 beats per minute.

    Mobile Apps

    Apps such as the Azumio Instant Heart Rate App can read your pulse by using the LED flash of your cell phone camera. You just start the app and place a finger over the camera and it reads your pulse.

    You will need to slow your pace or stop to get a stable reading. An advantage is that the app is tuned to know what a stable reading is, so you don't see a result until it's been able to give you an accurate one.

    Using a Touch Pulse Monitor

    Pulse monitors have one or more sensors that you place your fingers on to count your pulse for you. Some exercise watches and pedometers have pulse monitors included. These generally work best when you have come to a stop or are marching in place. It can be tricky to get a good reading, so check it against your neck pulse until you have gotten the right technique.

    Grip Pulse Monitors

    Some treadmills and other exercise machines have grips with pulse sensors built in. You grip them and your pulse will read out on a display on the machine. You usually will not have to interrupt your workout to get a reading.

    Heart Rate from Fitness Bands and Smartwatch Sensors

    Some fitness bands, such as the Fitbit Charge HR, and smartwatches such as the Apple Watch have LED pulse sensors on the underside next to the skin.

    These must be worn securely against the skin in order to get a stable and accurate reading. To save battery life, many of them don't read continuously. See the instructions for your monitor or watch to see how to get an on-demand or continuous pulse reading.
    More: Can You Trust the Heart Rate Reading from Fitness Wearables?

    Chest Sensor Heart Rate Monitors

    A heart rate monitor with an ECG-accurate chest strap will give a continuous reading of your heart rate, so you do not have to slow down or stop to get a reading. You wear the chest strap under your shirt, against the skin, and see the readings on a wristwatch monitor or other device that it transmits to wirelessly.
    Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor

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