Posted by: Cobus | 2005/11/17

Exertion Levels

I am a 26 year old male and quite fit. I have noticed someting recently that I am confused about.

I always thought that heart rate is directly proportional to how rapidly you breathe, i.e. at my cardio heart rate of 165bpm I should be breathing equally rapidly irrelevant of the exercise performed. I noticed however that I can peddle a bicycle at 165 bpm for ten minutes without getting totally out of breath or dizzy, but when I'm on the stair climber, I can't even get to 145bpm before I need to slow down due to being out of breath and muscles buring.

Why is my heart rate not determined by my breathing or my effort levels?

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Our expert says:
Expert ImageFitnessDoc

HI Cobus

The sensation of being out of breath and having a high heart rate are only related sometimes, under certain conditions. However, there are so many other factors that influence this as well. What you are observing is how different activities produce different breathing and heart rate responses. You may observe the same thing if you do weight lifting - no breathlessness but elevated heart rate and muscle soreness. The key in your case is something called economy or efficiency, I suspect that you are pretty efficient on the bike, you can cycle at a high cadence and workrate, causing your heart rate to rise fairly high but without feeling breathless because you are able to use oxygen fairly efficiently. On the stair climber, however, you may not be as efficient and so your overall work rate is relatively low, producing a low heart rate but high breathing rate as you sort out in part the co-ordination of breathing and the struggle against being inefficient. It's not a problem, you just have to understand how the heart rate works and then interpret the value according to the activity you are doing, and not always looking at it the same.

Good luck

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