Fitness

How tracking your heart rate can improve your health

By: Jill Buchner

Fitbit Author: Canadian Living Credits: Fitbit

Fitness

How tracking your heart rate can improve your health

By: Jill Buchner

For years, personal trainers and athletes have worn chest straps to measure their heartbeats per minute. In recent years, however, technology has made measuring your heart rate easy, even for the everyday exerciser.

Today, wearable fitness trackers efficiently measure your heart rate. Take the Fitbit Charge HR, for example. It uses a special light hidden under the wristband to detect blood volume changes, counting each time your heart beats and instantly computing your beats per minute. At the touch of the button you can know your heart rate—whether you're lying in bed or crossing a finish line.

How can you use this information to better your health? We spoke to Melanie Chase, product and marketing manager at Fitbit, to find out how heart rate intel can help you get healthy.

1. It can help you lose weight.
"Your heart rate can give you a really good picture of your calorie burn," says Chase, who explains that when you raise your heart rate to a certain level, you can maximize that burn. The Fitbit Charge HR will tell you when your heart is in the "fat burn zone," so you can be sure to spend as much time as possible at that level, and therefore optimize weight loss from exercise.

2. It can help you push your workout to the next level.
Doing a high-intensity interval workout? Your heart rate will tell you whether you're giving it your all or if you need to step it up a notch. Starting a new running routine? Use your heart rate to help pace yourself so you don't burn out. Your peak heart rate isn't something you can sustain for a long time, says Chase. When you track your heart rate, you can make an educated decision about how to push the intensity of your workout or increase your endurance.

3. It can help you strengthen your heart.
Track your heart rate when starting a new exercise regimen. You'll likely see a decrease in your resting heart rate after a week or two. "Resting heart rate is a great indicator of health and fitness," says Chase. "Research shows that resting heart rate should be between 60 and 80 beats per minute, but it's usually on the lower end for people who are physically fit, because their hearts are more efficient." Keep track of what your heart is doing every day. It will help motivate you to keep moving so you can watch those numbers drop!

4. It can help you manage stress.
When you track your heart rate throughout the day, you might start to notice trends. Is it higher on workdays? Is it lower on days that you started with a workout? "Changes in your heart rate can correlate to stress," says Chase. You might not always be conscious of when you're stressed, but your heart doesn't lie. Knowing what stresses you out can help you make changes accordingly. "Just glancing down at your wrist, you might say, ‘Wow, my heart is racing right now,'" says Chase. "It's a good reminder to take a couple deep breaths, go for a walk or do whatever calms you down."

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How tracking your heart rate can improve your health

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