Regardless of the sport we play or the job we do we all need to maintain good cardiovascular health. How do we determine the fitness level of our heart and circulatory system? This Health Brief has been prepared by Function to Fitness Physiotherapy and Personal Training to assist you to develop an exercise program that incorporates a healthy level of cardiovascular training.
Before we start, we highly recommend that you consult with your physician before you undertake any strenuous exercise, particularly if you have had health problems in the past.
How do I determine if my heart is healthy?
There are three things that provide us with an easy insight into the health of our heart and vascular system:
- Resting Heart Rate
- Blood Pressure
- Exercise Recovery Time
1. Resting Heart Rate (RHR):
Did you know that your heart pumps blood through a 168,000-mile journey through all your veins and arteries about 100,000 times every day? When your heart is strong it pumps fewer times. The average individual has a RHR of 72 beats per minute. World-class marathon runners have resting heart rates in the low 40’s range—that’s a lot of saved beats a day!
Your heart is responsible for making sure your 45 trillion cells in your body get the nourishment they need. Your RHR is easy to monitor and should be checked once a month. The best way to calculate your RHR is in the morning while in bed before you start moving around.
- Locate your pulse either at your wrist or the side of your neck.
- Count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to get the rate per minute
- Write down your RHR on your training log
- Be consistent by testing at the same time of day.
2. Blood Pressure:
Your blood pressure measures the force exerted by your blood against the walls of your arteries. When your heart contracts, the pressure of the blood increases. The first reading that you get when taking your blood pressure is called systolic pressure. When your heart relaxes between beats, the pressure levels off and this pressure is referred to as diastolic pressure. An individual’s blood pressure can vary greatly both on a daily basis and a seasonal basis
The World Health Organization has established standards for blood pressure. The normal range for Systolic pressure is 110 to 140 mmHg and for diastolic pressure it is 85 to 90 mmHg.
3. Recovery Time:
The length of time it takes your heart to return to (or close to) its pre-exercise rate is your recovery time. As you become more fit (in a cardiovascular sense) you will strengthen your heart and make the transition from exertion to rest easier. A fit heart should have a recovery time of 3 minutes or less.
How do you exercise your cardiovascular system?
Any physical activity that elevates your heart into its training range and sustains it for a minimum of 20 minutes*, 3 times per week, is an appropriate minimum level of exercise for your heart.
* Studies show that a cumulated time is as beneficial as a solid workout time
Below is a formula used to determine your target heart rate training zone.
Age predicted maximum heart rate (APMHR) = 220 -(your age)
The acceptable training range for most individuals is 60 – 90 % of APMHR.