Expert Q&A

Heart rate during exercise: Why doesn’t it get high anymore?

During strenuous exercise, my heart rate doesn’t get as high as it used to.  Am I doing something wrong?

No. In fact, you’re doing everything right.  As your body becomes more fit, it requires more effort to elevate your heart rate to the same level. Why? Because your heart actually pushes more blood with each pump. 

To increase your heart rate - first increase the speed or difficulty of the exercise

If you want to work harder to make your heart beat faster, it’s very easy.  Just increase the speed or difficulty level of your exercise. If you walk or jog, go faster. You can also add a slight incline to the route to make it more challenging. With these few small changes you will immediately feel a difference. If you’re inside on a treadmill or other machine, do the same. For group fitness classes, try exaggerating your movements more.  When the teacher kicks, be sure to kick just a little higher than normal. When moving around the room, take bigger steps. Pretend you’re the teacher and hold your body upright with proper posture. All these things help you hike the heart rate just a little bit higher. 

Exercise your legs for a guaranteed increased heart rate

If all else fails, use the surefire heart rate elevator: your legs.  The muscles in the legs—actually the rear gluteals—are the largest muscles in the body.  When you start using those muscles with squatting and lunging motions, your heart rate will skyrocket.  These muscles are the key to elevating your heart rate in all activities. They can help you easily push your working rate up a few beats per minute.

Michele Silence, MA
Contributing Expert

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