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Pulse Measurement

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Or you can wear a heart rate monitor during exercise so you do not have to take your pulse. A heart rate monitor shows your pulse rate continuously, so you see how exercise changes your heart rate.

To check your heart rate while exercising:

  1. After exercising for about 10 minutes, stop and take your pulse.
    • Measure your heart rate by placing two fingers gently against your wrist (don't use your thumb). If it is hard to feel the pulse in your wrist, find the artery in your neck that is just to either side of the windpipe. Press gently.
    • Count the beats for 15 seconds. Multiply the number of beats by 4. This is your beats per minute.
  2. Make changes in how hard you exercise so that your heart rate stays within the range of your target heart rate.

Target heart rate is only a guide. Everyone is different, so pay attention to how you feel, how hard you are breathing, how fast your heart is beating, and how much you feel the exertion in your muscles.

What Affects the Test

You may not be able to feel your pulse or count your pulse correctly if you:

  • Have decreased sensation in your fingers.
  • Are not using the right amount of pressure. Too much pressure can slow the heart rate, and too little pressure can cause you to miss some beats.
  • Are trying to take your pulse in an area that is covered by too much muscle or fat.
  • Are using your thumb to take your pulse. Your thumb has its own pulse, which will interfere with your counting.
  • Are moving too much while trying to take your pulse.

What To Think About

Many people take their pulse during or right after exercise, to check their heart rate and to find out if they are exercising at a healthy pace. Your heart rate (pulse) during and after exercise will be higher than your resting heart rate.

Call your doctor if your heart rate does not come down within a few minutes after you have stopped exercising.

As you continue to exercise regularly, your heart rate will not rise as high as it once did with the same amount of effort. This is a sign that you are becoming more fit. To learn more, see the topic Fitness.

WebMD Medical Reference from Healthwise

Last Updated: March 26, 2012
This information is not intended to replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise disclaims any liability for the decisions you make based on this information.

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