How do I measure my heart rate at rest and during exercise?
Measuring heart rate is often referred to as palpation. This skill is easily mastered with a little practice. At rest (sitting or lying down), take your first two fingers and locate the radial pulse. This artery is found on the thumb side of your wrist on the underneath part of the arm (near where you would wear your watch). Make sure you are using only the first two fingers and not the thumb, as the thumb can have its own inherent pulse. Also, don't press too hard or you could actually block the artery and you won't feel anything at all. After finding the pulse, look at your watch (or use a stop watch) and count the number of beats in one minute. This number represents your minute heart rate or your resting heart rate. You could also just count the number of beats in 30 seconds and multiply by 2. The best time to get a true resting heart rate is immediately upon waking up in the morning prior to getting out of bed.
During exercise you may have to stop what you are doing to find your pulse. However, do your best to locate it without stopping. Once the pulse is located count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply that number by 6 to get your exercise heart rate. For example, if you count 20 beats in 10 seconds then your exercise heart rate is 120 beats/minute (20 x 6 = 120). Speed up or slow down based on your target heart zone. Remember that your target heart rate zone is 60-90% of your maximum heart rate.
If you want to know how to calculate this, click here.
To determine if it is safe for you to be become more physically active go here.
Stephen D. Ball, Ph.D., Associate Professor, Nutritional Sciences, College of Human Environmental Sciences, University of Missouri Extension
Last update: Thursday, December 04, 2008