These days at the gym, it seems like every machine is equipped with a heart rate monitor that allows you to view your high or low heart rate, as well as a chart that shows your target heart rate depending on what you want to accomplish (ie, fat burning versus cardio-intensive). But, what if your readings are lower than those specified as your target? Can a low heart rate reading during exercise be cause for alarm? Below we’ll discuss some of the possible causes for these lower results and how they can affect you.
A Healthy Muscle
Your heart, after all, is a muscle constantly flexing and contracting in order to pump blood throughout your entire body. So, it stands to reason that if you’ve spent a lot of time training that muscle through regular cardiovascular exercise, it will be strong enough to beat less times while still supplying the same volume of blood throughout the body.
For most of us the heart averages, at rest, between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). However, for a well-trained athlete, this average can drop to between 40 and 60 bpm because their hearts are stronger and more efficient. So, if you’ve been a regular at the gym for years, your lower heart rate may be right where it’s supposed to be.
Some who experience an at-rest bpm of 60 or lower might be suffering from bradycardia, a slower than normal heart. In contrast to those well-trained athletes mentioned above, those who suffer from this condition encounter not only the slower heart rate, but are easily fatigued, and experience weakness and dizziness during even minor cardiovascular exertion.
The main cause of this condition is a problem with the normal electrical impulses that control the heart’s pumping rhythm. The underlying source of these disruptions can be due to any number of issues, including hypertension, thyroid problems or sinus issues. Therefore, if you find that your lower heart rate is accompanied by weakness or if you’re feeling faint during your workout, it is best to get checked out by your physician before resuming your normal regimen.
Some heart medications, especially a class of drugs known as beta blockers, can also lead to a lower than normal heart rate during exercise. Beta blockers are prescribed primarily to those who suffer from high blood pressure, arrhythmia or those who have suffered a heart attack. They work by lowering blood pressure and opening blood vessels in order to promote more efficient blood flow, so the heart doesn’t have to work as hard. Those taking such medications should consult the prescribing physician to discuss a workout level that will work best for them.
A lower than normal heart rate can be a good sign for those who exercise often, but can also be a warning sign for those who are just starting out. In any instance, just to be safe, it is always recommended that you visit your doctor with any concerns before resuming your training regimen.