Athletes engage in frequent cardiovascular-based activities that improve how their hearts function in pumping blood throughout their bodies. An athlete who trains frequently using cardio exercises will have a very different heart rate and a different response to exercise than someone who has not trained at all.
Heart rate is how often the heart needs to beat to circulate blood through the body. A current average heart rate is taken at the wrist for 15 seconds, then multiplied by four. In athletes, the heart muscle has been strengthened by training and does not need to work as hard to pump blood through the body. Other muscle systems throughout the body have also been strengthened, which helps the body recover more quickly from exercise.
Resting Heart Rate
Resting heart rate is an important number to note--it is the heart rate of an individual who is not engaged in physical activity and has recovered from any exertion--a heart rate when there are no extra demands placed on the body. A low resting heart rate for non-athletes is around 40 beats per minute, while a low rate for athletes is around 40, although medical conditions and personal idiosyncrasies play their part.
Maximum heart rate (MHR) refers to the maximum rate a heart can reach in physical activity. Typically this rate is around 220 minus the person's age, but there is a variety of factors involved. Athletes aim to reach about 170 to 190 rates during cardio workouts, about 80 per cent of their maximum rate. The average MHR for male athletes is around 202, but the number tends to drop with athletes, who have stronger hearts that do not need to work as hard at peak conditions.
Heart Rate Recovery
Heart rate recovery refers to the amount of time it takes for a person's heart to slow down after exercising their cardiovascular system in some. The recovery rate can be used to judge the overall health of the heart, since a health heart will recover much more quickly than a heart that is not used to such conditions. Typically the heart rate is brought up to peak exercise rates around 170 to 190 and then allowed to fall back down again.
No strict rules apply for heart recovery rates, although there are clear differences. For instance, a healthy person's rate should fall below 120 beats per minute about five minutes after they have reached their target rate and then stopped exercising. If the heart takes longer, it is not in optimal condition. After 10 minutes, the heart rate should be lower than 100 beats, and in half an hour it should be back at resting level. This is for a non-athlete--athlete rates differ, but are almost always more rapid, and can take only half the time or less before reaching resting heart rate.
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