Why you need to invest in a heart rate monitor

Canadian physical activity guidelines recommend that you get 150 minutes of moderate- to vigorous-intensity physical activity per week. What you don't know is that the more intensely you exercise, the more health benefits you’ll receive. And, as you incorporate more vigorous intensity activities into your exercise routine, you’re helping to get your heart in shape.

And, a strong and healthy heart doesn’t just look good on a Valentine’s Day card, it also

  • lowers your resting heart rate
  • improves the strength of your heart so you can send more blood to your body and therefore serve up more oxygen to your muscles
  • makes your heart more efficient so even though it’s sending more blood, it’s not working harder
  • makes it possible for you to increase your exercise intensity

So how do you know when you’re working out at a high enough intensity to give your heart a good workout? First off, if you aren’t used to exercising a lot, or just getting back into it, we suggest seeing a certified exercise professional. They can do some tests and make sure it’s safe for you to proceed.

If you’re otherwise healthy and ready to increase your intensity, invest in a heart rate monitor.

Heart rate monitors are fairly inexpensive (they can be as low as $35.00), and they are the most accurate way to see what’s going on. Bonus is that many activity trackers come with a monitor built right into the band! There are even some websites and apps (iPhone and Android) that can help with the calculations.

Technically you can monitor your heart rate manually by taking your pulse, but don’t.

Here’s why.

Unless you’re very well trained, you’re probably not going to get an accurate measurement and you many even end up distracting yourself enough to get launched off the back of the treadmill.

So when we’re talking about heart rate, what do I mean when I say “proper intensity”? Well, we can estimate your training zone based on your heart rate and your age. In general, you can predict your maximum heart rate by using the formula 220 - your age.

So, I’m 32 years old and my maximum heart rate would be 188 beats per minute (bpm). Below is a table to use as an example. As you can see below, I try to aim for vigorours to maximum effort. Clear as mud? Great! Get out there and get sweaty!

How to measure exercise intensity