by Jessica Blackport
February is a month for celebrating the heart.
Every year we look forward to that exciting holiday – Valentine’s Day – complete with cards, chocolate, other gifts and maybe even a visit from the beloved Cupid. And not only do we celebrate the heart’s capacity for love – we also celebrate the heart’s health by designating February as National Heart Month.
As the number of heart disease cases grows in this country, we have great reason to give our hearts a little extra care and attention during this Valentine season.
In a recent cycling class, the instructor gauged the intensity of our workout by our heart rate. If our heart rates were too high, she had us slow down – and if too low, she ramped up the intensity.
This made me wonder: How often do I pay attention to my heart while I’m working out?
When I realized the answer was “not enough,” I began researching ways to change that.
Monitoring your heart’s beats per minute is an easy way to gauge if your heart is working at a healthy rate. You might be doing too much, or you might be doing too little to be doing you much good.
You may have noticed that many cardio fitness machines have handgrips to calculate your heart rate in beats per minute. You also can buy heart rate monitors and watches in stores.
If neither option is available, you can use the doctor’s method of using your index and middle finger and finding your pulse on your wrist or under your jaw line. Be sure to have a secondhand watch or clock nearby so you know how long to count. You can count beats for a full minute or you can count beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two, 20 seconds and multiply by three, or 10 seconds and multiply by six. Know that the longer you count, the more accurate your number will be.
Now that you have your heart rate, you can check heart rate charts and tables to see how your number (and your age) compares to the different intensities of a heart work zone. Many gyms, fitness centers and group fitness classrooms have a Target Heart Rate chart that uses age and a 10-second heart rate count to determine what zone you’re working in.
So, the next time you’re working out, check your pulse and count your beats.
It’s like building a relationship with your heart. It speaks, and you listen.
This February, while appreciating your loved ones and love itself and focusing on matters of the heart, let’s remember to listen to what our heart is telling us about our health.
Guest blogger Jessica Blackport is Physical Education major, concentrated on Exercise Science, at Butler University. She is currently completing her coursework by serving as a JCC Health and Wellness intern and will graduate in May 2014.