Treadmill Exercise & Heart Rate

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When people think about getting in shape, a common thought is to head to the gym, hop on a treadmill so they can run or walk to improve their fitness. Modern treadmills give you many pieces of information about your current workout. It can, in particular, let you know what your heart rate is at any point in your workout. This is a critical piece of information, especially as you try to lose weight and improve your cardiovascular health.

Treadmill Basics

While there are many different treadmill manufacturers and models, most treadmills are similar in appearance and operation. Most treadmills are powered by an electric motor, and you can use electronic controls to change the speed of the conveyor belt as well as the incline of the treadmill. Most treadmills feature different workout routines that speed up and slow down the treadmill in order to achieve a desired effect, such as weight loss, endurance or climbing.

Heart Rate

Your heart rate is an excellent indicator of your overall fitness. It's also a good way to measure how hard you're working at any given time. The average resting heart rate is somewhere between 60 and 100 beats per minute, or BPM. If you're in good shape, your resting heart rate--that is, your heart rate while you're not working--will be lower than the average person's. Your heart rate increases while you work out because your heart has to work harder to fuel your active state.

Measuring Heart Rate

To measure your own heart rate, you can either gently press your index and middle fingers against the side of your throat, or you can place those same fingers against the back of your wrist. From there, you can count the number of beats per minute. However, a much easier and more practical approach is to place your hands on the metal heart rate sensors on your treadmill. This number changes along with your heart rate, giving you a real-time look at how hard your heart is working.

Target Heart Rate

Some treadmill workout programs don't worry about distance, time or intensity. Instead, they aim to help you achieve what's known as your target heart rate, which is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is a number that helps to keep you working at a healthy rate; you'll work hard enough to get a good workout, but not so hard that you're putting your health at risk. Staying within your target heart rate helps you to track your heart rate over time, enabling you to use it as an indicator of your progress on the treadmill.

To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

Exceeding Your Target

Should your heart rate exceed what's considered to be normal--such as 200 beats per minute--the machine may shut off on its own. This is the machine's way of telling you that it's dangerous to continue at your current heart rate and you must take a break. This also prevents you from exercising at a rate that would cause you to burn out and lose the desire to use the treadmill. If you must get off the machine, walk around slowly to ease your heart rate back down.