Wednesday, February 24, 2010

Heart Rate Monitors for Exercise by Rick Stene

Being regularly moderately physically active has been shown to help prevent a number of health problems. (Heart Disease, Type 2 Diabetes, Hypertension, Osteoporosis, etc…) Simply put physical activity is a cornerstone for good health.

To achieve these health benefits people are encouraged to be active most days of the week (5 or more days). Additionally people are encouraged to exercise at an intensity that makes the body feel like it is working (breathing deeper and more quickly) but is still comfortable (no discomfort and not puffing). This is often referred to as a training zone. For most people exercise is recommended at 40% to 70% of their heart rate reserve. (Heart rate reserve = maximal heart rate – resting heart rate).

The use of heart rate range to gauge this training intensity has been widely used to assist people in knowing whether their exercise intensity is appropriate to gain all the health benefits. Exercise intensity is based on the following physiologic principle: as exercise intensity increases, oxygen consumption and heart rate also increase in a linear relationship. Obviously heart rate is easier to measure than oxygen consumption. For this reason you often hear of people checking their pulse to see if they are exercising at the correct exercise intensity. A heart rate monitor shows you your heart rate as you exercise. This provides instant, accurate feed back on how intensely you are exercising. It also allows you to move from one type of activity to another and still maintain a proper exercise intensity. (I.e. walking to bike, rowing, gardening etc.)

One of the limiting factors for heart rate monitors for Cardiac Rehabilitation is the need to establish a maximum heart rate in order to calculate a desirable heart rate range. This usually requires a recent Exercise Test (Stress Test). Additionally any changes in medications (particularly Beta Blockers –Atenolol or Metroprolol) may alter the heart rate range and a new range may need to be re-established. Rick Stene is Manager, Chronic Disease Management-Exercise, Saskatoon Health Region

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