The heart beats every minute because cells of the body constantly need oxygen delivered by blood that is pumped by the heart. When the cells need more oxygen, such as during an exercise like stretching, the heart beats faster. Therefore, stretching can raise the heart rate during warm-up sessions. On the other hand, if the stretching is performed as a cool-down exercise, it can help the heart rate to return to a lower, resting level.
General heart rate information
The average resting heart rate for a healthy adult man is about 72 beats per minute. A healthy adult woman will have an average heart rate between 76 and 80. Age, body size and health all affect average heart rates. In addition, people who practice aerobics regularly normally have a slower average resting heart rate. However, a heart rate below 60 can be dangerous.
A person’s maximum heart rate is the ultimate upper limit of beats per minute under stress. To most accurately measure maximum heart rate requires a stress test on a treadmill. However, a working approximation can be calculated by subtracting a person’s age from 220. People should exercise at a target heart rate that is 70 to 80 percent of their maximum heart rate for the best health benefits. A heart rate higher than this provides no more benefits and taxes the body.
There are four basic classes of stretching exercises. Ballistic stretches, in which the exerciser bounces the muscle, are not recommended at all because muscles and connective tissue can become injured because the movements are too quick. Dynamic stretches incorporate movement specific to the type of sport in which the stretcher is about to engage. Static stretches are so named because the muscle is extended and held there between 10 and 60 seconds. Static stretches are the most popular form of stretching. Finally, proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation, or PNF stretches, are performed by a trainer or partner who pushes on the body of the stretcher. PNF stretching should only be performed by someone trained to know how to avoid injuring another person.
Stretching as warm-up exercise
Exercisers can avoid injury with proper warm-ups. When an exerciser engages in stretching as a warm-up prior to a workout session, her heart rate will increase. In this instance the stretching commences from a resting heart rate condition. As blood circulates as a result of the stretching, muscles become warmer, joints become more flexible and the body temperature increases.
Increasing the body’s energy output through stretching will also increase the heart rate. After warm-up stretching, the heart rate should be slightly higher than the resting heart rate and on its way to target heart rate. The bulk of the workout, such as running or weightlifting, should be the main activity that brings it all the way up to target rate.
Stretching as cool-down exercise
Conversely, if the stretcher has just finished a workout and has increased his heart rate as a result, stretching as part of the cool-down phase of the session will help the body to gradually need less oxygen, lowering the overall heart rate. Exercisers should participate in walking or some other general exercise until their heart rate reaches 100 or below; then they can stretch. By the end of the cool-down, the heart rate should be at or near normal resting rate.
Monitoring the heart rate
Exercisers can monitor their own heart rate after stretching by wearing a heart monitor during exercise. They can also check their heart rate manually by pressing two fingers on the inside of the opposite wrist. Count the number of heartbeats for 15 seconds, then multiply by 4 to get heart rate per minute. It should be noted that it can take around three minutes for the heart rate to stabilize after beginning stretching or other exercise. In addition, heart rate typically will be 10 to 15 beats less per minute if the person is lying down.