By Gabe Sanders PhD, NSCA-CSCS
Your heart is an amazing organ and has the ability to stimulate beats on its own without the help of your autonomic nervous system. Your heart can also sense and adjust the amount of work it does based on the amount of blood that enters and exits its chambers.
The rate in which your heart rate lowers or returns to normal after exercise is known as your heart rate recovery (HRR). A faster HRR indicates that you have a healthier heart and likely, a lower risk of developing heart disease. A very slow HRR could be indicative of some type of cardiovascular problem.
A young, healthy heart rate will begin to decrease immediately, however, as we age, this recovery time could become a little longer. As long as your heart rate begins to decrease soon after exercise, regardless of the rate of full recovery, your heart is working properly. At the end of the day, your goal is to keep exercising and stay consistent. Over time, your heart will get healthier and your HRR will improve.
Patients with arthritis and heart disease can improve HRR
Individuals with chronic diseases of all kinds can still see marked improvements in their HRR the more fit they become. Even patients with arthritis and heart disease can improve their HRR. Individuals on heart medications such as beta-blockers will not be able to accurately monitor their HRR, however, exercise is still recommended for almost all individuals, regardless of medication.
Follow these steps to monitor your heart rate recovery- HRR:
- Wear a heart rate monitor or hold the sensors that record your heart rate on a piece of aerobic exercise equipment.
- Exercise at a comfortable pace for 10-20 minutes.
- At the end of your exercise session, check your peak heart rate. This is the highest number of beats your heart reached for that particular exercise session.
- Then, monitor or record how many seconds/minutes it takes your heart rate to reduce by 10 beats, 20 beats, or even 30 beats.
- Remember, a faster recovery time is good; consistent exercise will help improve your heart rate recovery time.
*For more examples of other variations/exercises look under Multimedia-VDF Exercise Tips
**Consult with a physician and/or medical healthcare provider before starting any exercise regimen
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Osailan A, Metsios GS, Rouse PC, Ntoumanis N, Duda JL, et al. Factors associated with parasympathetic activation following exercise in patients with rheumatoid arthritis: a cross-sectional study. BMC Cardiovascular Disorders. 2016. 16(86).