Your heart rate can tell you a lot about how your body is performing – after all, your heart is basically the engine of your body! If it’s performing well, then chances are, so are you.
This means that it’s important to know how you can measure what’s going on with your heart rate – particularly after exercise! How well your heart recovers after it’s been put to work is a great measure of your overall fitness.
After all, it’s only when you understand how your body works that you can know how well you’re doing, and how you can improve. If you’ve ever wanted to know more about the recovery rate of your heart, and how you can measure it accurately, then this article is for you!
Heart Rate Recovery
What Exactly Is Heart Rate Recovery?
Well, heart rate recovery is a measurement of how fast your heart rate goes back down to normal after a period of strenuous exercise. It’s a great general way of assessing your cardiac fitness.
If your heart recovers it’s normal resting rate quickly after intense exercise, then that means that you’ve got a good level of fitness!
It’s important to remember that your heart rate fluctuates often throughout the day, depending on what you’re doing and your circumstances. For example, if you’re having a relaxing nap, your heart rate is, of course, going to be lower than if you’re sprinting for the bus.
But your heart rate will also change while you’re awake! A cup of coffee can increase your heart rate, for example, as can having an intense interaction with work colleagues. Likewise, your heart rate will be lower after sitting on the sofa for a while, or reading a relaxing book.
A good way to measure your heart rate recovery is to test it. A peak exercise test, which is an intense bout of cardio where you go as hard as you can until you can’t go anymore. You then measure your heart rate right away, as soon as you stop.
After that, fully rest, measuring your heart rate every minute. The time it takes for your heart to return to a resting pace is your heart rate recovery time. It’s most common to measure both 1 minute and 2 minutes after exercise.
There are many ways of measuring your heart rate. Most popular amongst fitness enthusiasts nowadays are probably fitness trackers and smartwatches – it’s easy to find one with a heart rate monitor, and they do the job great!
Harvard Step Test
The Harvard step test is an aerobic fitness test that you can do easily with minimal equipment. All you’ll need is a stopwatch, and a large enough step or object that you can step on. This will need to be 20 inches high – so a sturdy chair or bench might be a great idea.
Of course, don’t do anything unsafe – and always make sure you’ve got assistance with you!
This fitness test is quite straightforward. First, you’ll start the stopwatch. You’ll step up onto the step, one foot after the other. Then, simply step back down again! Your aim is to step completely up and down 30 times per minute for 5 minutes, or until you’re exhausted.
In this case, being exhausted means that you can’t maintain this rate for 15 seconds.
This means that you’ll be doing a full step up and down every 2 seconds, to meet the 30 times a minute requirement.
So, as soon as you find you can’t do a full step up and down every 2 seconds consistently over a 15 second period, you’re counted as exhausted for the purposes of the test!
As soon as you’ve reached the end of the test, stop the stopwatch and sit down. Do this immediately, as you’ll be measuring your heart rate, and will want to get an accurate recording – and you’ll also need to know exactly how long you took on the test in seconds.
Wait for precisely one minute, and count the number of heart beats between then and 30 seconds later – meaning that you’ve counted the number of beats that happened between 1 minute and 1 and a half minutes after ceasing the stepping exercise.
For the short form of the test, this is the only measurement that you’ll need to do. The calculation that you’ll do to see your Fitness Index score is as follows:
Fitness Index (short form) = (100 x test duration in seconds) divided by (5.5 x pulse count between 1 and 1.5 minutes)
That looks a little complex, so let’s go through an example.
Let’s say that you reached 4 minutes and 20 seconds before reaching exhaustion on the test. 1 minute is 60 seconds, so 4 times 60 = 240. Add the other 20 seconds, and you’ve got 260 – so you know that your test took 260 seconds.
You measured your pulse for 30 seconds after a minute of rest, and your heart made 52 beats in that time.
First of all, we work out the bits in the brackets.
(100 x test duration in seconds) becomes (100 x 260), which equals 26000. SO we know the first number is 26000.
(5.5 x pulse count between 1 and 1.5 minutes) becomes (5.5 x 52), which equals 286. So, our second number is 286.
Therefore, the equation:
(100 x test duration in seconds) divided by (5.5 x pulse count between 1 and 1.5 minutes)
(100 x 260) divided by (5.5 x 52)
Which then becomes:
26000 divided by 286.
Well, 26000 divided by 286 equals 90.9.
This means that your fitness index rating is 90.9, which when checked on the fitness index table would indicate that you’re doing pretty well!
For a more accurate measurement, we’ll use the long form. This means that you’ll take more measurements immediately after you stop making steps from exhaustion.
You’ll take a measurement of how many beats your heart makes between 1 minute and 1 minute 30 after stopping as before. You’ll also take some measurements between 2 minutes and 2 minutes 30 seconds, and between 3 minutes and 30 seconds.
Remember that you’re measuring the amount of beats your heart makes in those 30 seconds – and not the beats per minute of your heart, which is a different measure.
The calculation for the long form measurements is as follows:
Fitness Index (long form) = (100 x test duration in seconds) divided by (2 x sum of heart beats in the recovery periods)
Let’s go through the calculations step by step again – but first, let’s make up some numbers!
This time, you still completed the test in 4 minutes and 20 seconds, and your first measurement was still 52 beats over 30 seconds. Your second measurement saw your heart make 46 beats over 30 seconds, and your 3rd measurement was 42 beats over 30 seconds.
We already know the first part of the calculation is:
(100 x 260) = 26000
Giving us a value of 26000 for the first part of the equation.
The sum of the heartbeats in the recovery process is:
52 + 46 + 42 = 140
(2 x sum of heart beats in the recovery periods)
(2 x 140)
2 x 140 equals 280. So, the equation:
(100 x test duration in seconds) divided by (2 x sum of heart beats in the recovery periods)
26000 divided by 280 = 92.8
Which means you have a fitness index score of 92.8. Let’s look at the fitness index score table below:
|Rating||Fitness Index (long form)|
|Good||83 – 96|
|Average||68 – 82|
|Low Average||54 – 67|
|Poor||Less than 54|
A score of 92.8 would put you very firmly in the “Good” category here – a result to be proud of!
What’s A Good Heart Rate Recovery Time?
The amount of time it takes your heart to recover after exercise is an important indicator of your general cardiac fitness, so it’s a good idea to know exactly what a good time actually is! Read on to find out.
Generally speaking, an average recovery rate of 15-20 beats per minute is considered to be about average for heart health. Anything above that is considered to be a pretty good recovery rate!
The better the recovery rate, the better overall health and condition of your heart. If you feel like yours is too high, then no worries – a solid, safe plan of exercise is the way forward!
What Is Resting Heart Rate?
Your resting heart rate is a measurement of how fast your heart beats when it’s at full rest. This means that even sitting up on a sofa watching a tv show might not be a great indicator of exactly what your heart’s real resting heart rate is.
Instead, your real resting heart rate is how fast your heart is beating when you’re awake, but not doing anything at all – before you’ve even gotten out of bed!
Of course, you can’t stay like that forever – which means that it’s important to get a good understanding of exactly how fast your heart beats when you’re at rest during your normal daily life too.
It’s normal for the heart rate to fluctuate over the day, depending on the activity and situation.
When you and your body are under stress – whether it is mental or physical – your heart rate will increase. This literally means stress from any activity – so not necessarily just negative things in your life!
Watching an exciting film or playing a game is technically “stress”, in that it increases the heart rate. Of course, this isn’t anywhere near as much as when you’re exercising, so you’re still technically resting!
Knowing what your resting heart rate is also an important part of knowing exactly what your heart recovery rate is! So it’s a good idea to check and monitor this, to help you get a baseline level so that you can monitor your fitness properly.
On average, most people have a resting heart rate somewhere between 60 and 90 beats per minute. That’s quite a big difference – but then, people come in lots of different shapes and sizes!
Depending on your size, shape, and fitness level, your resting heart rate could be on the higher or lower end of the scale.
What Is An Athlete’s Resting Heart Rate?
Athletes are, of course, fitter than the average person! They regularly subject themselves to more intense and strenuous exercise than most people do, and push their bodies past average limits.
Those who do much cardiac exercise, and those who do endurance sports are particularly notable for the excellent condition of their hearts. Therefore, their resting heart rates are much lower than those for non-athletes.
Resting heart rates of under 60 beats per minute are normal in athletes. In fact, it’s not unheard of for athletes to have heart rates as low as 40 beats per minute when at rest!
This is because their hearts are actually both bigger and more efficient, due to the increased intensity workouts that they receive! Because their hearts are bigger and more efficient, they need to do less work to pump blood around the body.
There you go – a quick guide to understanding and measuring heart rate recovery! Hopefully this article has helped you understand a little more about your own body, and how you can measure your recovery heart rate in order to get the most out of your exercise!