What Should an Athlete's Heart Rate Be During Heavy Exercise?


When you exercise, your heart rate increases above your normal “resting rate.” Everyone’s heart rate will vary according to age, fitness level and other factors, but an athlete’s might be lower than the average adult’s. You can use certain techniques to measure your heart rate and ensure that you are working out at an optimal intensity. However, consider consulting with a health-care provider for more personal guidelines.

Determining Factors

Even if you are an athlete, the amount and type of activity you do will vary, and this in turn will affect your heart rate both during exercise and when you are at rest. The temperature of the air and the position of your body, such as lying down versus standing upright, also will alter your heart rate. Your emotional state and any medications you are taking can have an affect as well, as can the size of your body, gender and age.

Target Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is the beats per minute when you are not exercising or doing any strenuous movement. According to Edward R. Laskowski, M.D., of the Mayo Clinic, an athlete’s resting heart rate will probably be around 40 beats per minute, as opposed to an average adult’s, which will be somewhere between 60 and 100. When you are working out, your heart rate will increase. To determine this target number, you can subtract your age from 220 to get a rough estimate. However, keep in mind that your own rate might vary by 20 beats per minute or more, and an exercise physiologist can give you a more accurate measurement.

Check Your Pulse

The best way to measure your heart rate while exercising is to check your pulse. Face your palm toward the sky and place two fingers on the side of your wrist that is closest to your thumb. Once you feel your pulse, begin counting the beats. Do this for 10 seconds, and then multiply the number by six to determine your heart rate. If you are not at your target, decrease or increase the intensity of your workout until you reach your heart-rate goal.

Additional Tips

You can use other bodily indicators to determine the intensity of your workout and estimate your heart rate as well. For example, if you are aiming to exercise at a vigorous pace, your breathing should be deep and quick, and you should begin to sweat within a few minutes of beginning the activity. You will also find it difficult to say more than a couple of words. But if you become short of breath or start to feel pain, consider slowing down to avoid injury.