Heart of the Matter – Part II


In my previous post (click here), I discussed the basics of what we need to understand about heart rate from the perspective of exercises and training the body. In this post, I would like to put forward a few ideas that would help relate to the theory in terms of how you experience it when you are working out.

In the earlier post on this topic, we spoke about stroke volume. A good stroke volume requires lesser beats per minute of the heart to supply the same amount of blood as a higher number of beats per minute of a heart with lower stroke volume. When you have been training and are fit, your stroke volume is healthy and your resting heart beat rate is low. Given the good stroke volume; when you workout, you can perform more work before getting winded.

When we exercise and perform work, the muscles involved demand oxygen. The bigger the muscle and intense the work, the more oxygen needed by the muscles. If the blood vessels and capillaries are clean and open, the heart has to work less harder to supply oxygenated blood. If the blood vessels and capillaries are not optimal, then the hear has to work harder to supply the oxygenated blood to the muscles. This will impact the heart beats per minute. As we saw earlier, there is an upper limit of max heart rate in which it is safe to work out. This means your ability to workout gets limited. Also if blood vessels and capillaries are compromised, the individual may have high blood pressure and may be ineligible to work out without medical supervision.

Here is something you can try in your gym. Compare how your heart beat accelerates when you complete set of bicep curls with your max rep weight against your heart rate when you complete a set of leg press with your max rep weight. You will find that the leg exercise bumps up the heart rate significantly as compared to the bicep curl. The reason is that the leg muscles are the largest muscle groups in the body and crave more oxygen when exercised. The heart has to pump out more oxygenated blood to meet the demands. The oxygen exchange happens in the lungs and therefore more air is needed in the lungs – hence the rapid breathing.

That is why it is important to ensure that your heart is healthy and blood pressure is normal before you begin your journey to exercise and fitness. Once you start regular working out you will experience improved stroke volume as well be able to work out longer before getting breathless.



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