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March 2024

Need-to-Know Info About Heart Rate

Two fingers on the neck, eyes fixed firmly on the watch––we’ve likely all seen someone checking their heart rate.

But this action isn’t just for sidewalk runners and “fainting” actors. Knowing your resting heart rate and target exercise heart rate can tell you a lot about your health.

What heart rate is

Also called your pulse, your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.

Why heart rate matters

There is no one-size-fits-all normal heart rate. So it’s important to know what’s normal for you. Because a change in the rate or regularity of your heartbeat could be a warning sign––you may have a health condition you need to address.

Your heart rate can also help you monitor your health and fitness level. People who are very physically active often have a lower resting heart rate, while higher resting heart rates have been linked with poorer physical fitness and high blood pressure.

Where to measure heart rate

To track your heart rate, find your pulse––try the side of your neck or the inside of your wrist. Press the tips of your first two fingers lightly over the pulsing artery.

Count the number of beats you feel for 30 seconds and then multiply that number by two. That’s your heart rate.

How to find target heart rate

During exercise, your heart rate is higher. Experts say we all have a target heart rate zone that represents the proper workout intensity for our bodies and our fitness goals. 

To find your estimated target heart rate, you first need to determine your maximum heart rate. Do this by subtracting your age from 220. (So if you’re 40, your maximum heart rate is 180.) Then, calculate the numbers for 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate. (If you’re 40, that’s 90 and 153. Thank goodness for calculators!) As you work out, try to keep your heart rate between those two numbers––that’s your target zone.

When to call a provider

If your heart rate is very low, or if you often have episodes of rapid heart rates, tell your healthcare provider. They can help determine whether you’re at risk for a heart rate–related condition.


Online Medical Reviewer: Brian McDonough, MD
Online Medical Reviewer: Stacey Wojcik, MBA, BSN, RN
Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2023
© 2000-2024 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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