Fitness Trackers - Heart Rate Monitoring

Discussion in 'Gadgets & Tech' started by el manana, Jan 9, 2021.

  1. el manana

    el manana Thru Hiker

    From what I've read...

    Maximum Heart Rate is 220bpm minus your age.
    So for a 50 year old the max heart rate is 170bpm.

    Resting heart rate usually 60-100bpm.
    Vigorous exercise should be 85% of your max rate so 144bpm for 50year old.

    How easy is it to keep your heart rate at 85% during vigorous exercise like pushing up a steep hill or running?

    Interested in anyone experiences?
    Anyone a bit older who is not as fit as they should be?

    Does more exercise improve this value?
  2. Michael_x

    Michael_x Section Hiker

    I've used a Garmin chest strap and more recently a Fitbit Inspire 2. Mostly out of curiosity. I'm more interested in tracking heart rate variability and sleep.

    I've not tried to stay in any particular excercise zone but pushing up a steep hill with a pack does have me over 85% much of the time. Especially if I have to keep up with others.

    Edit to add : Exercise improves resting heart rate but not max. Mostly that's what the books say and my experience fits that.

    (Age 64.5, max 166, resting 57, fairly unfit)
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  3. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    Unfitter you are, easier it easy to keep HR up so to speak. Low fitness level means the HR will be higher more of the time during the exercise. Fitter you are, better the recovery, so HR goes more up and down, rather than keep at higher level.
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  4. Arne L.

    Arne L. Section Hiker

    I train by HR quite a lot, but I'm 31 and (fairly) fit. My max is 193 and average resting HR is 51. I use a chest strap when doing intervals or tempo runs, otherwise I rely on optical HR which is good enough when running 'easy'. Nowadays I use a Fenix 6X but Garmin uses the same optical sensor in every watch they've released since May 2019.

    Don't pay too much attention to the 220 BPM minus your age; that's an average. Like any average, you could be far above or below that. The best way to know your true max HR, is to get tested. But that's fairly expensive & tiring, so I much prefer lactate treshold-based zones. It's far cheaper to know your lactate treshold & makes sure you're running/training in the correct zone.

    Most of my HR-based training is running on flat-ish ground and on 'easy' days, I prefer training between 60-70% of my max HR. Vigorous training would be between 80-90% of max HR, but I only tend to do that about once or twice a week. I think the 80/20 rule is a good one: 80% of your training should be 'easy', while 20% should be moderate to tough.

    Maintaining a low HR whilst trail running is far more difficult for me due to the variety of the terrain. Mostly, when trail running, I don't pay too much attention to my HR but just 'go by feel'. That doesn't always bode so well though because I get excited and tend to overdo myself on trails.

    When hiking, even pushing a steep mountain, my HR rarely exceeds 120 BPM. It's weird because I feel exhausted by my HR doesn't really go much higher then that. Nowadays I turn off the optical HR when hiking to save battery and I don't really care about it anyway.

    I started HR-based running in 2017 and my HR immediately sky rocketed when I was running. I had to take a lot of walking breaks (and got passed by a lot of other people) early on. But as I persisted, my pace got faster while my HR stayed the same.

    But you do need a lot of volume and patience IMO. After a while, your resting HR will drop, your HR will drop faster after a run, you'll feel a lot better. But it takes time.

    It takes far less time to lose that fitness, though...

    There's a ton of information out there about low heart rate training, with the Maffetone method being the most popular.

    If you're serious about HR-based training, do a lactate test and get your zones figured out. Follow a training program (I like the programs by US ultrarunner Sage Canaday, because he doesn't stick to one philosophy), take it easy and slow.

    Your HR will drop, eventually.
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  5. el manana

    el manana Thru Hiker

    Cheers - great responses :thumbsup:
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  6. Robert P

    Robert P Ultralighter

    How easy is it to keep your heart rate at 85% during vigorous exercise like pushing up a steep hill or running?

    I just looked at my recent data on Garmin Connect (my Garmin watch has a heart rate monitor)
    My resting heart rate is about 52bpm and for my usual ~40min local runs (over hills, with a range of steep and flat sections) the average heart rate was in the range 145-159 for the last 12 runs, which is over the 85% of theoretical max for me. That would suggest it is possible to keep your heart rate at 85% during exercise.
    There are caveats of course. Firstly, I can exceed my theoretical max quite easily. Secondly, I can't vouch for the precise accuracy of my heart rate readings.
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  7. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    The 220 rule is so vague it's pretty much useless mate

    There are various self tests you can do to measure your max heart rate, no matter the test they're all brutal and i wouldn't recommend attempting unless you've had a heart stress test and are reasonably fit

    I used to do the max heart rate and VO2 tests when i was younger
    Honestly i think they're nonsense

    Even when i was cycling competitively and interval training i still found the the max heart rate test to be only a rough idea
    Eventually through experience i found what heart rate i could maintain during a MTB race or a 25 mile time trial
    I found this more useful than the max test

    Completely disagree
    Max heart rate is in no way any gauge of someones fitness

    Again, i disagree

    1/ Heart rate is different for all of us
    During a 25 mile time trial in my late 20's i would peak at 225bpm

    My mate and training partner would barely see 180bpm in the same time trial
    We would both finish at roughly the same times

    2/ Another thing to consider is fatigue, sleep, nutrients, even weather (temperature mainly)
    For me these hughley affect both my average and max heart rates during exercise

    3/ I've been reasonably fit (just under 1 hour on a 25 mile time trial), although the way through to really really unfit to the point where i needed to stop for a breather walking up 2 flights of stairs
    I've also be using heart rate monitors and keeping training notes since the mid 90's


    My advice is to wear your heart rate monitor a fair bit during various exercises
    You'll then get an idea of what your average heart rate is and how this corresponds to perceived effort
    If you want to try interval training i think a heart rate monitor is pointless
    Just go as hard as you can for the intervals

    After years of monitoring my heart rate i'm now getting to the point where i believe it's pretty pointless
    These days if i'm not on-call i won't take any electronics with me

    Best things i've found about using HRM's for over 25 years is they're good for measuring fatigue
    If my resting heart rate is high i know i'm either coming down with something, am stressed, didn't sleep well or i'm fatigued

    Tricky thing is deciding if i'm stressed (exercise helps me with this) or ill (tends to aggravate the illness)
    My fitness level doesn't seem to make much of a difference to my average heart rate
    Of course my perceived effort is higher the fitter i get as my body is working more efficiently and i'm more able to maintain the discomfort, but my average heart rate stays around the same

    Biggest difference i've noticed is my age really affects my average heart rate

    2010 my average heart rate on a local run was 176bpm
    2020 i'd struggle to see that as my max
    This with the same sort of physical effort on the exact same run
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  8. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    I think you misunderstood me. I talked about keeping the heart rate up, not max heart rate. When unfit people exert themselves, the heart rate shoots up easily and stays there for a while even after the exertion is over. Fit people can do more without much raising the HR and their hearts recover much quicker and the HR drops much faster as well.
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  9. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    I understood mate but don't agree, i've not seen that with myself or anyone i train with
  10. edh

    edh Thru Hiker


    Difficult when walking uphill on an OK grade; if silly steep then easy enough, but few hills are super sustained unless you're off trail IME. Add in a little fear (scrambling) and easier still -and easy enough to max out.

    On the rower I find this readily acheivable - steady, low load, repetitive, repeatable movements.

    I think the first depends on how you define fitness so really variable for all of us? I'm chubby off-season. Resting heart rate 50ish. Can run 5km. I don't feel fit.

    The latter.....?
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  11. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

    Well, you don't have to agree, but that's what the science says.

    Here's just one article after a quick search.

    Comparison of Heart Rate
    When you compare the heart rates of fit and unfit persons during exercise, you will notice differences. First, the unfit person begins to exercise with a higher resting heart rate. Once the unfit person begins exercising, the heart rate will rise quicker to a total heart rate higher than that of the fit person. The unhealthy person's heart rate will then take longer to slow down than the average person, balancing out to a higher resting heart rate once again.

    https://www.livestrong.com/article/370950-what-is-an-unfit-persons-heart-rate-while-exercising/
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  12. edh

    edh Thru Hiker

    Arguing with Gix is more likely to raise your HR than any exercise :D
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  13. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker

  14. Cranston

    Cranston Thru Hiker

    Arne's spot on referring to 'Lactate' (Lactic Acid) and Heart Rate being the best reflection of this for training. Hopefully I'm not misquoting him.
    The MHR using the 220 b/min you refer to El is given, and widely scientifically accepted.
    The more 'Cardiovascular Fit' (the ability of the Heart, Lungs and blood vessels to provide nutrients and remove wastes) person will cope for longer than someone not CV fit -who will conk out very quick, but eventually a person no matter how CV fit will be forced to stop unless they drop their intensity to reduce the production of the Lactate.

    How easy is it to keep your heart rate at 85% during vigorous exercise like pushing up a steep hill or running?
    Staying there might be difficult. You may sail straight past if a person isn't fit? Might take some practice to remain there even with a monitor at first.
    Will depend on your ability to get rid of that crap Lactic Acid -as above and of course provide enough nutrients and get rid of the other wastes etc to supply/remove from the working muscles. So most older CV unfit people will struggle to stay there for long at all.

    For what it's worth, if an unfit (and especially older-over 40 we worked on) person presented to me when I was CV testing and designing exercise regimes for a living straight after Uni and my khyber was on the line and was thinking of starting training at 85%MHR -that could be a recipe for disaster and I wouldn't do it.

    A low, but still very productive CV training effect kicks in at about 65%MHR, which for an older unfit person would be a good place to start.
    All being equal.
    Six weeks is regarded as the minimum time to see a 'Training effect', then a person would look to step up the %MHR to maybe 70%.
    Vigorous exercise is anything that produces a training effect-and maintaining CV health is a training effect, because as soon as you stop training you lose the gains.

    Interested in anyone experiences?
    Anyone a bit older who is not as fit as they should be?
    Does more exercise improve this value?


    My experience as someone getting back to being moderately fit and not a nipper anymore and certainly overweight by about 6kgs is I can't get much above the 60%MHR (most times when I walk so NOT enough CV effect for me) -unless I jog-then I can work at about 75%-80%MHR which is fine training for me. I jog at 8km/hr (this speed gives me the 75%odd percent I know) for 25-30 mins to somewhere nice mins/have a cuppa or two/ then the same back to car or home, four times a week normally.
    The reason I like it is it's not so tough it puts me off and and it controls my weight so I can have a cleansing medicinal Invalid Stout:woot:).
    Last edited: Jan 13, 2021
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  15. gixer

    gixer Thru Hiker

    As you say there is no science in that article

    The article is such a vague stab in the dark that it's bordering on dishonest

    Absolutely 100% incorrect statement
    Exercise and fitness has very little to do with resting heart rate
    You can reduce your resting heart rate if you are fitter, but to suggest that fitness is connected to resting heart rate for everyone is 100% incorrect
    Hopefully you agree

    Vague generalisation
    When i was fitter my heart would rise quicker at the start of a race/time trial than me Mum's walking her dog (she's not fit)
    Oddly enough my Mum's heart rate while walking is also lower than mine, yet she struggles to walk more than a few miles on the flay these days

    Using ONLY heart rate as a measure of fitness is pointless
    Power output i.e. perceived effort is more important

    Agree with this

    Heart rate taken on it's own is not a measure of fitness
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  16. Lempo

    Lempo Thru Hiker


    I was lazy and didn't want to go to PubMed et al, but here goes.

    Under consideration of all comparisons, the RHR significantly decreased more in the exercising groups (intervention groups) compared to the control groups

    Meta study https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6306777/

    There's no 'everyone' (which I never claimed), but there's majority. RHR is lower on average in people who exercise, thus unfit people have higher RHR baseline.


    Anecdotal evidence is not scientific evidence. Just because you have one experience doesn't mean that on average majority of the people have the same. There are no absolutes (which I never claimed), but there are statistical significances, which makes them to apply to majority of the people.

    In your race case, there are few things to consider.

    1. You're fitter, so you have a more powerful heart and more extensive vascular network. This means when adrenalin kicks in (due to race situation), your body is ready to go with max effort.
    2. Walking a dog is a very low intensity effort which doesn't require much preparation by the body. If you put your mum to run a race, her HR would probably shoot up massively from the start (but not necessarily pre-race).
    3. There is also a condition called bradycardia, slower than normal heart rate which is more prevalent in the elderly.

    Causes
    The chances of getting bradycardia increase as you get older, though that’s true of most heart conditions. The causes of bradycardia can vary greatly from one person to the next.

    The abnormal rhythm can show up after a heart attack or as a side effect of heart surgery. Other things that can lead to it:

    • Certain medications, such as those to treat high blood pressure and other arrhythmias, or abnormal heartbeats
    • A congenital defect, or problem you’re born with
    • Thyroid disease, an imbalance of hormones in the body
    • Obstructive sleep apnea , when your breathing pauses many times throughout the night

    I never said that HR should be used as a measure of fitness. The OP asked specifically about how fitness level affects or manifests with HR, to which I replied.

    As for RPE, it has it's issues as a measure of fitness too, mainly due to what it, perceived, which is subjective.

    https://link.springer.com/article/10.1007/s40279-019-01229-z

    However, once learned, used in conjunction with other parameters, it can be a useful tool for an athlete to easily estimate the zone they are supposed to be.

    But, this is still beside the point, as I wasn't talking about the measure of fitness, but HR zones.

    RPE is not a measure of power output, which can be measured in watts. RPE is used to measure exertion for example while maintaining a steady power output on a cycle.


    Again, I never claimed this. I was talking how fitness level and HR can correlate.

    Unfit people tend to have higher RHR. When exercising, they reach (their own) high HR sooner and stay there longer (than fit people) after the exercise is over.

    Fit people have lower RHR and recover (= HR drops) faster.

    This is applicable to majority of the people. If you disagree with this, fair enough.
    I won't be digging more articles as I referenced a meta study of 191 studies and won't be debating more.

    To be clear. I never said/implied that HR is a measure of fitness. HR is a measure of rate which heart beats and that rate is affected by multitude of factors, but one that a person can usually directly affect by improving fitness level.

    Measuring fitness is a completely different conversion, which I'm too tired to partake. :D





    PS. Interesting tidbit here to what I referred in my post about Liebermann's book:

    The meta-analysis of the five RCTs on strength training included in our review did not yield significant effects: our results indicate that strength training has no significant impact on the RHR.

    Meaning cardio training reduces RHR much more, hence the health benefits of cardio in that respect are better.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021
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  17. Chiseller

    Chiseller Thru Hiker

    I recently started MAF running/sport walking.
    I use 180 minus my age - 5
    It's hard work to go steady but I know a few people who've done very well getting upto ultra distance (less than 40 mile doesn't count as an ultra in my tiny mind.) I also know some folk who have stuck with it and altered the max hbp limit as they've progressed. They eventually became quick runners on distances above 10k.
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  18. Michael_x

    Michael_x Section Hiker

    Wore my heart rate chest strap for my quickie to Kinder Low from Peep o Day and back. 13kg pack because camera gear, etc.

    Clear correlation between going uphill and heart rate going up. Ave 132,max 164.

    Other than that all over the place so not sure one can learn much from it. 20210110_211831.jpg
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  19. Cranston

    Cranston Thru Hiker

    I think it matches quite well. Figures are never exactly live to the moment.
    Last edited: Jan 10, 2021
  20. Michael_x

    Michael_x Section Hiker

    Plus, other factors, influence heart rate. Just after the blank before 10km I've obviously been descending yet heart rate is way up. Reason: I'd lost the path, everything was white, fog giving maybe 10 metre visibility, specs misted and phone GPS 30 miles out, I didn't know which direction to go. That's when I realised compass was in bottom of my pack, almost everything on top of it, very stressful :(. Clearly I don't have handle stress well.
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