Your pulse rate

Your resting pulse rate is measured by most blood pressure monitors, or you can do it yourself by counting the beats in your wrist or neck against the second hand of your watch
Feeling pulseDo you know your pulse rate?

What you need to know is the number of beats per minute. Generally the lower it is, the fitter you are - unless you have a pacemaker or heart disease.

Pulse rate fluctuations

Your pulse rises to meet the demands of activity, then recovers as you rest. The degree of increase and decrease in pulse, and the speed of recovery increases as you get fitter.

You can calculate the optimum rise duringexercise, and use a pulse monitor to maintain that level during your exercise spells and check your rate of recovery as you rest afterwards. Try recording your 'activity pulse' immediately after you complete your exercise, then your recovery pulse' two minutes later.

The difference between the two figures is a measure of your recovery rate. You can monitor your progress towards fitness by recording your recovery rates after the same spell of exercise each day.

If you set the level of your daily activity according to your pulse, you will gradually do more and get fitter quite safely with each exercise session - three 30-minute spells per week are sufficient.

You will quickly see improvements in your body fat and blood pressure measurement, and recovery of your pulse to resting levels.

So what are 'normal' pulse rates?

The average resting heart rate for an adult is between 60 and 100 beats per minute, while well-conditioned athletes can achieve between 40 and 60 beats per minute. The maximum pulse rate is 220 minus your age, and the target for a healthy pulse rate during, or just after, exercise, is 60-80 per cent of this.

Therefore, if you are aged 50, you should aim to build up fitness gradually until you reach a target pulse rate during exercise of between 102-136 bpm (beats per minute).

If you are aged 55, your target should be between 99-132 bpm, age 60 = 96-128 bpm, age 65 = 93-124bpm, age 70 = 90-120 bpm, and age 75 = 87-116 bpm.

Keeping track of your pulse rate

If you keep track of how long it takes for your pulse rate during exercise to return to its normal resting rate, within four weeks of starting regular exercise your efforts should be rewarded with a noticeable reduction in recovery time.

However, the target rates given are only guidelines, as your pulse rate may be affected by other factors such as medication, pacemakers or certain forms of heart disease.

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The opinions expressed are those of the author and are not held by Saga unless specifically stated.

The material is for general information only and does not constitute investment, tax, legal, medical or other form of advice. You should not rely on this information to make (or refrain from making) any decisions. Always obtain independent, professional advice for your own particular situation.

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  • Nigel Jarrett

    Posted: Monday 24 March 2014

    I'm 71, pretty fit, swim regularly and go to the gym. Sometimes i get irregular heartbeat rhythms but I've noticed them more frequently of late. I don't smoke and I drink in moderation. I take statins for a 'raised' cholesterol level ('raised being 6 to 6.2 LDL HDL ratio; it's now down to 4 or less. The irregyular rhythms can appear at any time, sometimes, but not necessarily always, after I've exercised. My doctor has given me an ECG but says the results showed there was nothing wrong.

  • Steve Robertson

    Posted: Sunday 29 December 2013

    my pulse rate when resting is at 95, I am 59 years old.

  • Chic Stanger

    Posted: Monday 24 December 2012

    I am 55 just started to go gym after 14 years my pulse rate was 32 after ten mins on the bike is that normal and I did 20 mts in the pool under water .

  • Patricia bainbridge

    Posted: Wednesday 14 November 2012

    I am 62 and my pulse rate is 72 when resting

  • gladflower

    Posted: Sunday 19 August 2012

    I am 73 years old and resting pulse rate of 45-49 I walk for excerise...

  • Barry Bullock

    Posted: Wednesday 01 February 2012

    I am 66 year old male with a pulse rate of 41-42, apart from the last four years I have excersized regularly with my pulse rate rising to 180 and dropping to 55-60 at rest. My only excercise now is that I walk, but I feel 41-42 is strange.

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