First off the disclaimer. I am not a doctor. I am not giving you medical advice. I am advising you of a method used by scientists in numerous studies to test patients heart rate recovery as a predictor of mortality. If you fear you have heart disease go to a doctor and voice your concern.
So you’re worried about having a heart attack, for whatever reason, and want a quick and easy method to predict your likelihood of having one. It is widely accepted in the scientific community that heart rate recovery after peak exercise is the best predictor of heart problems (outside of doing proper medical testing like an ECG stress test).
What Is Heart Rate Recovery?
- The number of beats per minute your heart rate drops one minute after achieving “peak” maximum heart rate.
Heart rate recovery after peak exercise is simply the capacity of your heart to return to resting heart rate after you maxed it out. The researchers (in many many studies) have quantified the “turning point” number to be about 15 beats per minute (less is bad and more is good).
Brief Overview Of Test
Go and exercise to your peak capacity with a heart rate monitor and timer (hopefully all built in to the same device) and see how many beats per minute your pulse drops within the first minute of recovery.
If your’s stays very near the peak heart rate (doesn’t drop by 15bpm or more) then you are in the higher risk category based on the numerous studies and reports. If your heart rate recovery is more than 15bpm then you are in the lower risk category.
One study looked at 9454 people and gave them all ECG stress tests. Of those 9454, 20% had abnormal heart rate recovery values. Over the course of the study (5.2 years) 312 deaths occurred. Of the people who died, 8% had abnormal heart rate recovery values. So it could be said that death was predicted by abnormal heart rate recovery 8% of the time.
The conclusion is don’t be too alarmed if you’re in the high risk index and are a seemingly fit and healthy person. 8% is significant enough in terms of experimental error but not alarming, if that makes sense?
What Is Testing Procedure?
First you will have to decide how you want to get to max heart rate. Three of the simplest and best options are: Sprinting, step ups and jumping (up and down).
Sprinting. For the intermediate to advanced fitness levels. Go to an open area and run flat out as fast and as long as you can. Probably a good thing to do a 3-4 minute warm up before hand.
Step ups. For the very beginner type. Grab a bench or go to a ledge that is at minimum 30cm high. The point is to step up with one leg and lift the rest of your body up to the ledge or bench. Then step back down with one leg to the ground. Repeat by stepping up again with the opposite leg.
Jumping up and down. For all types of fitness levels. Simply jump up as high as you can. Push off both legs like you were performing a squat and carry through lifting your entire body off the ground. Repeat this for a while and make sure to jump as high as you can. Use your arms for momentum.
- Get your heart rate monitor and put it on
- Check your resting heart rate for no reason other than to test the monitor is working
- Sprint, step up or jump depending on which option you choose from above
- Do this for at the very minimum 30 seconds. The sprint and jumping may get you to peak in that time but for the step ups go for a while longer. The whole goal of this is to push yourself to your limit. The harder you go the more chance your heart will recover more beats in the first minute – think of it that way.
- After you have reached peak exertion and heart rate stop and look at your heart rate and the time. It is very important you remember your max heart rate and time you stopped
- One minute after you stopped mark down your heart rate
- Max heart rate minus heart rate after one minute equals what?
- The goal is for that number to be 15 beats per minute or more, is it?
If not, read on…
How Can I Improve My Heart Rate Recovery?
The more efficient your heart is at pumping blood the more beats per minute it will recover from maximum exertion. The best way to increase the efficiency of your heart is to “train” it to pump blood .
How do I train my heart to pump blood?
The simple answer is make it pump blood at elevated rates for prolonged periods of time. There are definitely other “methods” (like drugs and what not) but doing this is called exercise and it is the cheapest, easiest and most enjoyable.
What type of exercise and how often?
So there is a fastest way and there is an easiest way: mix it up hardcore and walk, respectively. So the fastest way to optimise your heart muscle is to train it often and different. Weight lift, sprint, swim, bike, run, walk and do all those in varying intensities and durations. Keep your heart guessing and you’ll smarten him or her up in no time. The easiest way is to walk and walk for long and often. Learn to enjoy it. Explore your city or town. One day walk one heading and the next day go the opposite. I walk for at least one hour but to be honest think 2 or 3 is more beneficial. Up to you!
So for max improvement in minimum time (do all of the below every week):
- Sprinting. All out for 30 seconds and rest 1-2 minutes and repeat 4-10 times.
- Weight lifting (light, short and fast). Can be body weights like push ups, pull ups, squats, lunges, jumps etc. or with dumb bells and bars. The key is to push your heart rate up by doing each exercise in succesion.
- Weight lifting (heavy). Unlike the above body weight lifting this recommended weekly exercise is to lift heavy weights or objects: push, pull, pick up and carry. The goal is to move a lot of mass a distance. Do it, it feels awesome.
- Sports and walking. Join a sports club. Walk a lot. Very simple but when combined with the above your heart just gets it and loves it.
For most non excruciating exercise but still lots of beneficial improvements:
- Walking. Walk long and far. Walk for at least one hour every day. Preferably, for your heart, walk 2-3 hours 4 times a week. Sell your car – seriously! Walk every 2 days to the supermarket for food. Walk to the gym. Walk to your girl or boy friends. Walk to the movies. Walk everywhere.
If you choose the easy route and decide you want to take up walking you should know I really mean walk everywhere. Think back to prehistoric times when your ancestors walked and walked and walked everywhere. You are built to walk 5-15km everyday. The healthiest most fit I have ever felt is when I walked 5km everyday combined with other weight lifting and sprinting activities – I felt so amazing I will never go back to just sticking with one or the other.
BUt yeah, have the recovery heart rate test a go. Let me know what your heart beat drop is. Mine changes but it’s been between 23 and 48 (a massive variance I know).
Hope you enjoy!