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Taking Your Exercise Pulse

Measure Your Heart Rate While Exercising

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Updated October 24, 2012

Polar FS1 Heart Rate Monitor
Wendy Bumgardner ©
Your exercise pulse rate is a good measure of the intensity of your workout. You can take your exercise pulse by hand or use a pulse monitor or heart rate monitor.

Your pulse will slow if you stop moving, so it is important to check your pulse quickly if using the manual method or a pulse monitor, counting for only 10 to 15 seconds. It is more accurate to use a continual-read chest strap heart rate monitor.

To find your resting heart rate, take your pulse in the morning while still in bed.

Taking Your Neck Pulse

You will need a watch, clock or timer that shows seconds. Use two fingers and do not use your thumb as it has its own pulse. It is often easiest to find your pulse in the carotid arteries, which are on either side of your windpipe. Start feeling for it just beneath your jaw, next to your windpipe. Once you locate the pulse, press lightly. Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by six, or count for 15 seconds and multiply by four. You may need to stop to do this at first, but once you are able to locate it, try to keep walking slowly or marching in place while taking your pulse to keep it from slowing.

Examples:
20 beats for 10 seconds = 120 beats per minute.
20 beats for 15 seconds = 80 beats per minute.

Using a Pulse Monitor

Pulse monitors have one or more sensors that you place your fingers on to count your pulse for you. Some exercise watches and pedometers have pulse monitors included. These generally work best when you have come to a stop or are marching in place. It can be tricky to get a good reading, so check it against your neck pulse until you have gotten the right technique.

Grip Pulse Monitors

Some treadmills and other exercise machines have grips with pulse sensors built in. You grip them and your pulse will read out on a display on the machine. You usually will not have to interrupt your workout to get a reading.

Chest Sensor Heart Rate Monitors

A heart rate monitor with an ECG-accurate chest strap will give a continuous reading of your heart rate, so you do not have to slow down or stop to get a reading. You wear the chest strap under your shirt, against the skin, and see the readings on a wristwatch monitor or other device that it transmits to wirelessly.
Before You Buy a Heart Rate Monitor

Cell Phone Apps

Apps such as the Azumio Instant Heart Rate App can read your pulse by using the LED flash of your cell phone camera.

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