By Deborah Jeanne Sergeant
Many smartphones come pre-loaded with an app for measuring heart rate, sometimes as part of a fitness suite that also tracks calories, water intake and activity level.
To measure the heart rate, simply holding the pad of your finger against the phone’s built-in sensor offers a reading.
The results are compared to an average heart rate range for activity level: resting, post-exercise and before exercise and even feeling love struck.
But how seriously should you take these readings? And how should you use this information?
Maddie Nizamis, certified personal trainer and co-owner of Studio 22 Personal Training in East Rochester, said that knowing if your workout is within range the target heart rate can offer a key indicator of fitness level.
If your workout sustains an elevated heart rate, you know that you’re increasing in fitness level, not just burning some calories. It can also help you know if you’re working out too hard.
Nizamis said that the phone apps should “give you a general range of where you are. It’s good to be aware heart-wise if you’re out running in the sun, for example. You can keep an eye on it.”
An elevated heart rate reading could indicate that the heart is working very hard and it’s time to slow down.
If you don’t have a heart rate app or device, Nizamis suggested a good general rule.
“You can also go by how you’re feeling,” she said. “If you can comfortably speak with someone, you’re at heart rate that you’re not overdoing it. They’re relatively accurate for giving you a range that you can help you pay attention to how strenuously you’re working out.”
Tracking heart rate has become such an important component of improving fitness that some gyms offer the use of heart rate belts so members can follow their heart rate and even compare them with one another.
Barb St. Pierre, owner of Trillium Sport & Fitness in Syracuse, said that the gym’s My Zone heart rate belt is about 95% accurate, “much more accurate than apps on phones or other devices” because it straps across members’ hearts.
St. Pierre has a bachelor’s degree in exercise science and is a certified personal trainer.
“We use it for everything, to monitor intensity of what they’re doing something and if we want them to work in a certain range, we can know if their heart is in the right range,” St. Pierre said. “We can know how effective the workout is and what their calorie burn is.”
For people training for a marathon, half marathon, triathlons or other endurance-based event, it’s important to train so that their heart rate in the lower percentage when they’re exercising on a treadmill, elliptical machine or other equipment.
At Trillium, the gym members can see the information from their heart rate monitors on their phones or on the screen at the gym. St. Pierre said that the wall display is “a great way to motivate people” as they can see how well they’re doing compared with others.
“The quicker the heart recovers, the better the heart’s condition is,” St. Pierre said. “I can immediately tell just watching their heart rate what they are or are not doing. It’s super beneficial.”