You keep hearing pros talk about their heart rates in various contexts, but you’re not sure what the big deal is. You haven’t been tracking your heart rate… does that mean you’re doing something wrong? Are there any major benefits to keeping track of your heart rate? In what situations is it important, and when can you afford to discount it? The answers to all these and more are found below, if you can spare a minute or two of your time.

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The major reason heart rates are talked about so much is because they’re one of the best ways of tracking benefits from exercise that are otherwise very difficult to detect. In a broad sense, your heart rate will let you know what level of fitness you’re at currently, how challenging a particular exercise is for you, and where you should go from there.

The target range for your heart rate during exercise is higher than normal. You want your heart to be challenged so it can grow stronger, after all. This is called the ‘working’ heart rate. However, don’t confuse it with making your heart beat as fast as possible! This can actually be dangerous. The concept of a working heart rate is one where the heart is challenged, but also set at a rate that can be sustained for a reasonable amount of time. By knowing your target heart rate, you can monitor your body and listen to it when it tells you, through your heart, to slow down or speed up.

Keeping in your working heart rate range will enable you to get the best results for the time you put in with your exercise. The generally accepted sustainable period for a working heart rate is twenty minutes minimum, if you want to see noticeable progress and improvement. Once you’re used to working out, you can challenge yourself to sustain the working rate for longer, or you can speed up a bit in the same time period if your heart rate is slacking off to relaxed levels.

As you can see, a working heart rate is a great tool for motivating yourself and keeping your exercise intensity at just the right level. Without it, you’re basically just guessing at what level of exercise is ‘right’ for you… and who wants to play a guessing game with their physical fitness? Whenever you feel like checking on it, it’s right there, available for you to peek in on with little trouble. And while your heart rate may differ from the heart rate of others you know, the body knows what’s best for it, so heed the heart’s advice.

Another helpful statistic to keep track of is your resting heart rate. This is the most relaxed a heart ever gets, when you’re asleep or just lazing about. The better your cardio-based health, the lower your resting heart rate will be. This is because your heart is stronger, and can pump more blood with fewer pumps. It can be an enjoyable way of seeing the concrete benefits of all those workouts.

It doesn’t require any special equipment or training to take your heart rate. In fact, it can be done very easily by counting out the pulses in a number of places on the body. Give it a try for a while, and you may just find that extra incentive you need to have a great workout.