The Different Types of Heart Rate – What to Track?

The key to getting and staying in shape is keeping track of your results. Keeping track of basic measurements like fitness levels and heart rate levels can provide extremely valuable information about your exercise efforts, fitness levels, and endurance.

What’s more, tracking your heart rate helps you figure out the optimal workout routines so you get the most out of your exercise. Even if you are not a pro athlete, you can get a lot out of tracking your fitness levels. 

How to Track Heart Rate

Measuring your heart rate is simple and you can do it without any tools at all. 

There are actually a few different types of heart rate that you can measure. The most important one to know is your resting heart rate. 

Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is your heart rate when you are doing nothing. Here is how to measure it:

  • Sit down or stand up in a relaxed position and stay there for a few seconds. 
  • Choose a location where you can feel a pulse. The most common locations are on the inside of the wrist or the neck
  • Place two fingers on the location and count the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds
  • It helps to use a clock or a stopwatch as it’s hard to count and keep track of time in your heart. 
  • Multiply that number by 4

So if I count 17 beats in 15 seconds, then my resting heart rate is 68. Alternatively, you can just count beats for the entire 60 seconds. 

A “normal” resting heart rate is between 60-80 bpm, though there is some variation. Typically, people who exercise often have a lower resting heart rate.   

Max Heart Rate

Your max heart rate tells you the maximum number of beats your heart can put out in a minute. This number varies greatly depending on age, fitness levels, overall health condition, and genetics. 

You can estimate your max heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So for example, if you are 30, then your estimated max heart rate is 220-30 = 190. This is just a rough estimate and your max heart rate might vary.  Many exercise scientists recommend the formula 220-0.7(age). 

This simple calculation does not account for age or fitness levels so the standard deviation is about 10-20 beats per minute. So your actual max heart rate maybe 10-20 above or below what you calculate. 

Heart Rate Reserve

Your heart rate reserve is another simple measurement. You calculate your heart rate reserve by subtracting your resting heart rate from your max heart rate. 

The point of measuring your heart rate reserve is to figure out ideal exercise intensity zones. You can craft exercise routines to hit these heart rate zones and keep track of them with a Fitbit or other kind of fitness tracker. 

For example, my resting heart rate is 68. That means that my max heart rate is 192 (I am 28 so I subtract 28 from 220). Thus, my heart rate reserve is 192-68 = 124 bpm.

Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate is the heart rate that you want to sustain during exercise. Generally, a good target heart rate zone is about 50%-87% of your maximum heart rate. This is a good zone for sustained cardiovascular activity. So, to figure out a good target heart rate multiply your max heart rate by 0.5 and 0,8 to find the range. 

So, my max heart rate is 192, which means a good target heart rate range would be between 96 and 153. 

How Can I Track My Heart Rate?

You can track your heart rate manually during your exercise but this is complicated as you have to stop to get an accurate reading. The best option is to buy a heart rate tracking device (view) or get a heart rate tracking app on your smartphone (view). 

The best tracking devices and apps give a bunch of useful metrics about your heart rate and track other metrics like O2 levels and body temperature. Even better, sophisticated apps can keep a running log of your progress over time.