Why Does Heart Rate Increase During Exercise?

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The heart pumps faster during periods of exercise to allow the body to keep up with and replenish what it has lost to heightened physical activity.

During periods of heightened physical performance, the body needs sugar, oxygen, and other nutrients from the blood even more.

However, there is more to it than that.

There is a more detailed answer to why does heart rate increase during exercise. And that’s what we will discuss today.

The Relationship Between Heart Rate and Exercise

The heart is a powerful and resilient muscle that pumps blood to our entire body.

It transports oxygen and nutrients to our tissues, adjusting as it goes along based on how much that part of the body needs.

The more physical effort you exert, the faster your heart beats, resulting in a higher heart rate.

The relationship between heart rate and physical activity is important for many reasons.

But what makes it vital is that it allows people to monitor their heart health during intense physical activity.

This is so they will know when to stop or slow down so as not to overexert their bodies.

How Exercise Benefits Heart Health

Some of the long-term cardiovascular benefits of exercise include:

  • Lower resting heart rate
  • Lower resting blood pressure
  • The ability to burn more calories when exercising
  • Lower risk of heart disease

With these come other advantages, such as better cholesterol management, more good cholesterol produced during exercise, and healthy weight management.

The good things go on and on, but they aren’t to be credited with exercise alone.

Aside from regular physical activity, sleep and a balanced diet are also keys to a healthy heart.

When these factors align, normal blood pressure and healthy blood flow are the least of the benefits; you could be a candidate for a long and healthy life.

As beneficial as exercise is to the heart and, by extension, the body, there is a limit to the intensity your body can take.

One of the best ways to keep track of the intensity of your workouts and how it’s affecting your heart is to measure the heart rate.

On Heart Rate and Exercise

In this section, we dive deeper into the connection between exercise and heart rate.

Age determines what the ideal heart rate is during physical activity.

Generally, the normal resting heart rate for adults is between 60 and 100 BPM or beats per minute.

But when factoring in exercise, there are two types of heart rates to consider: maximum heart rate and target heart rate.

Maximum Heart Rate

The maximum heart rate is the highest number of beats your heart can achieve and is computed as 220 minus your age.

So, if you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate is 180 BPM or 220 minus 40.

Maximum heart rates in people of the same age may vary slightly, but this computation should produce accurate results more often than not.

Target Heart Rate

The heart rate maintained during exercise is known as the target heart rate.

It is a percentage of a person’s maximum heart rate and varies based on the intensity of the physical activity.

learn why does heart rate increase during exercise

Target Heart Rate When Doing Exercises

Age and exercise intensity are the two main factors that determine your target heart rate.

It is calculated as a percentage of the maximum heart rate of a person performing exercises of the following intensities:

Moderate-Intensity Exercise

In exercises of moderate intensity, the target heart rate is calculated as 50 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate.

That would mean someone aged 40 would have a target heart rate somewhere between 90 and 126 beats per minute during moderate exercise.

High-Intensity Exercise

During high-intensity exercises, your target heart rate ranges from 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

That would mean someone aged 50 would have a heart rate of 126 to 153 beats per minute when exercising vigorously.

Hitting the Right Intensity

Knowing the level of intensity to aim for is crucial to a safe and effective exercise session.

In particular, beginners or those with cardiovascular issues won’t want to overexert themselves.

You will want to keep things at a level that works for you and go from there.

This study on exercise intensity for healthy adults should help you structure workouts according to your needs.

Here are a few of its most important points:

  • Aim for 2.5 to five hours of moderate-intensity or 1.25 hours of high-intensity exercise per week.
  • There should be at least two full-body exercise sessions of at least moderate intensity per week customized around your needs.

History of heart disease, medications, and other limitations should be factored into the equation when creating your programs.

People Who Need To Be Careful of Their Heart Rate When Exercising

Exercise is meant to strengthen the heart muscle, but each person has different limitations regarding how safe and beneficial physical activity can be.

Exercise intensity shouldn’t be a problem for most people.

Moderate or high intensity, the general population should be able to take things in stride with little to no risks.

That said, some health conditions may lead to serious complications with overexertion.

That’s why getting the green flag on a new exercise program from your healthcare provider is always important.

Your circulation may not be at its best, and a high heart rate from vigorous exercise could make it worse and strain your heart.

People who should be especially careful about how intensely they exercise are the following:

  • Those who have smoked for years
  • Overweight or obese individuals because of the risk of high blood pressure and circulation problems
  • Diabetics because of the increased risk of cardiovascular disease
  • People with high cholesterol
  • Those with other heart issues: stroke, heart attack, heart failure (decreased pump function), and irregular heartbeats
  • Individuals with high blood pressure, which makes the heart work extra hard to transport blood to muscles and vital organs when working out

We’re not saying you stop exercising. After all, exercise helps with the treatment of these conditions.

However, you must execute your programs under the supervision of a healthcare provider to ensure a safe environment and effective results.

If you are at risk of the above situations, you may need to reduce exercise time and/or intensity.

It’s important to have your programs modified to meet your specific needs.

Work with other professionals in the healthcare industry who can address diet and other lifestyle factors for a holistic and comprehensive program.

When Is a Heart Rate Considered Dangerous?

You already know why does heart rate increase during exercise.

Basically, your heart rate shifts to deliver the amount of blood required by specific parts of the body, depending on the level of activity you perform.

However, if your heart rate goes higher than your maximum heart rate, that’s considered a dangerous heart rate in general.

Certain health conditions may also lead to a lower maximum heart rate, which is still not ideal but better than going beyond the maximum rate.

There’s no magical computation to tell you what a dangerous heart rate is for you so you can avoid it.

Though the truth is, it’s not hard to figure out. All you have to do is listen to what your body is saying.

If it’s saying the weights are too heavy, or you’re starting to feel pain, that’s a sign to stop.

You either stop or take it easy, both with the exercise time and intensity.

In particular, you want to be on the lookout for the following signs while exercising:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Nausea or vomiting
  • Lower than usual resting heart rate
  • Erratic heartbeats

If anything at all feels unusual to you during exercise or if you’re feeling pain or discomfort, that’s your body telling you something could be wrong.

That’s something you really don’t want to risk.

Why Does Heart Rate Increase During Exercise: Bottom Line

Knowing your maximum heart rate, target heart rate, and other vital heart rate details can help you better monitor your heart rate during heightened physical activity.

It tells when to stop or take things down a notch, so you don’t overexert and potentially put yourself in danger.

More important than these heart rate computations, however, is a keen awareness of how your body is feeling.

Despite your determination to reach your fitness goals quickly, your body will tell you if you are going overboard because things will start to strain, hurt, or get uncomfortable.

Listen carefully and do what your body says since this could spare you from potentially serious health complications.

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