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Heart Disease Health Center

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Cardiac Rehabilitation: Monitoring Your Body's Response to Exercise - Topic Overview

There are several ways to measure your body's responses to exercise and other lifestyle changes. You may want to keep track of the following measurements during your exercise sessions at cardiac rehab and at home.

Target heart rate

Your target heart rate can guide you to how hard you need to exercise so you can get the most aerobic benefit from your workout.

At the beginning of your rehab, the staff may give you a target heart rate goal to start with. You can use your target heart rate to know how hard you need to exercise to gain the most aerobic benefit from your workout. You will probably exercise at the lower end of your target heart rate. As you progress through the phases of cardiac rehab and you stay more active, you may exercise harder (at the upper end of your target heart rate range).

Rating of perceived exertion

Rating of perceived exertion (RPE) is a valuable and reliable indicator in monitoring your exercise tolerance. It is usually used as part of an organized cardiac rehab program. It is probably most useful to first learn about RPE with a health professional, such as an exercise physiologist or trainer. And then you may be able to use it when you exercise on your own. During exercise, you will want to monitor for and report any angina symptoms, such as chest pain or pressure, to your doctor.

The RPE is a means of determining how hard you are exerting yourself, including physiological (how hard you are breathing, how fast your heart is beating) and muscular strain (how much you feel the exertion in your muscles). The scale measures your answer to the question: "How hard do you feel the exercise is?" The scale goes from 6 to 20.

RPE scale
Rating numberPerceived exertion
6Very, very light
8Very light
12Somewhat hard
16Very hard
19Very, very hard

Blood pressure

If you are in a supervised cardiac rehab program, your blood pressure (BP) will also be monitored in addition to HR and RPE. You may want to be aware of your BP during exercise that you do by yourself. You should expect a gradual increase in your systolic BP (the first number), while your diastolic BP (the second number) should show very little change. If this does not happen, consider any medicines you may be taking that could affect your BP and/or call your doctor.

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