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Question
Posted by: Taryn | 2004/01/21

Heart rate

I am a 42 year old female. I go to gym 5 days a week. Spinning, super circuit, treadmill, v-mat. I recently acquired a heart rate monitor and am horrified to see that my HR can reach 188. I have now become neurotic when my heart rate reaches 179 because my friends say it's not normal. My resting heart rate is about 60. I am 1.78m tall and weight 70kg. My body fat % is 14. My HR goes from 170 to around 100 in about 1 minute. When I generally walk around my HR is between 80 and 112. Please could you give me some advice.

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Our expert says:
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Hi Taryn

I can't obviously say whether or not this is normal, because there is always a chance that your heart rate being high is indicative of a problem. THis is not impossible. HOwever, my personal opinion is that this is not anything to be concerned about. The thing about heart rate is that it is very individually variable. There is no ideal or unnatural heart rate. The fact that your heart rate falls by 70 in a minute indicates that it is actually OK, and it might just be that you have a very high and responsive heart rate during exercise.

To give you an example, we often test cyclists during research. It is possible and has happened that two cyclists, of similar performance ability and age, can cycle at the same exercise intensity, and one reaches a heart rate of 170, and another gets up to 200 or higher. So, that shows how variable heart rate can be.

Do not get caught up in to believing the heart rate monitor as the final authority in your fitness level. The best way to use your heart rate monitor is to use it to compare training sessions from week to week. Therefore, if you train one day doing a particular session, take note of your heart rate. The next time you do the exact same session (say 30 minutes run at 12 km/hour), you should be able to compare your heart rate during the session. If it is lower, then it indicates that you are fitter than before, and your training is going well. If it is higher, then it shows that you are either tired, or training too hard or are possibly becoming ill. This is a sign that you are in need of a few easy training days.

It is important that you don't think of heart rate as the absolute indication of fitness or health. It is the differences between heart rates in exactly the same session that is important, and understanding how your own individual heart rate differs from week to week will allow you to train with great precision.

Lastly, remember that heart rate depends on many factors - hydration, mood, stress levels, temperature and so on. Therefore, if your heart rate is not exactly what you think it should be, don't worry too much. Rather look at long term changes and patterns in heart rate, and try to interpret them as I explained above.

Good luck

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

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