What Is a Heart Rate Chart?

A heart rate chart is a visual reference tool that allows individuals and healthcare practitioners to monitor heart rate. The chart shows the ranges in which resting heart rate and target working heart rates during exercise should be for healthy individuals in their respective age groups (American Heart Association, 2023; Cunha, n.d.). 

Resting heart rate is the number of times the heart beats each minute when awake at rest (American Heart Association, 2023). These are pulses felt in arteries running through the neck, wrist, or elbow. Every time the heart beats, it contracts to circulate blood through the body to working muscles and organs, which creates pressure in the arteries that causes the pulse feeling (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Heart rates automatically adjust to the environment or activity, so when individuals are relaxed, they maintain a resting heart rate, but the heart rate may spike when excited or active. 

Heart rate charts can allow healthcare practitioners to monitor patient heart rates to track health and progress. Heart rates can indicate underlying health conditions, where low heart rates can cause dizziness or fainting, and high rates can signal conditions such as overactive thyroids or anemia (American Heart Association, 2023; Hipps, 2023). 

Health coaches may also use the heart rate chart to inform exercise plans for clients by using maximum heart rate (MHR) ranges to inform exercise intensity. When we exercise, the body requires faster-oxygenated blood and nutrient circulation. This causes the heart to contract more, elevating the heart rate to meet the organ's demands. Coaches can adjust the exercise intensity using the chart and heart rate to inform effective and safe training plans. 

As a resource, the chart allows individuals and healthcare practitioners, such as general practitioners and health coaches, to track whether someone’s heart rate is within the normal ranges (American Heart Association, 2023). This can ensure ongoing heart rate monitoring, allowing individuals to stay healthy and remain proactive in their overall well-being.

How Does It Work?

Our heart rate chart is an effective tool designed to help individuals and practitioners like health coaches and nurses monitor heart rate. The chart references recommended heart rate ranges by age, indicating heart functioning, exercise intensity, and potential underlying conditions.

Step 1: Obtain the Heart Rate Chart

Begin by accessing our free, printable heart rate chart here. Alternatively, you can download the chart as a PDF version for reference.

Step 2: Determine Pulse of Heart Rate

Heart rate can be determined in several ways. You can collect a manual heart rate by finding your pulse on the inside of the wrist near the thumb or the top of the neck at the corner of your jaw. Press over the artery using the tips of your index and middle finger, and count how many pulses you feel over 30 seconds. You can multiply this value by 2 to determine beats per minute.

Alternatively, some smartwatches may also automatically count your heart rate.

Step 3: Interpret the Chart

If you are checking resting heart rate, use the resting heart rate column to identify whether the individual is within the recommended rate for their age. If the heart rate is operating at a rate lower or higher than the age range, it would be necessary to schedule an appointment with a healthcare provider to complete further screenings regarding heart functioning.

Additionally, if your heart is operating irregularly, you should contact your healthcare provider to seek guidance and address any health concerns. If using the chart for exercise intensity, you can observe whether the individual’s heart rate is within the recommended light to moderate intensity heart rate column.

If it is lower, you should increase the intensity by increasing load or having fewer rests between intervals. If your heart rate is higher, you may lower intensity by having longer rest breaks or decreasing load.

When Would You Use This Chart?

Healthcare practitioners such as general practitioners, health coaches, and nurses can use a heart rate chart to track a client’s heart rate. This can be used to indicate overall health and help inform plans around exercise and health plans. Other scenarios in which the heart rate chart would be beneficial include:

  • Routine Checks: In consultations with patients, healthcare providers such as nurses or general practitioners may measure heart rate as an indicator of cardiovascular health and overall health and fitness. These may inform recommendations for patients to adjust lifestyle behaviors to stabilize heart rates to within the normal age range (Hipp, 2023).
  • Determining Maximum Heart Rate: Normal maximum heart rate can be determined by subtracting an individual’s age from 220. For instance, an individual at 23 has a recommended maximum heart rate of 197 beats per minute (bpm) during vigorous physical activity (Hipp, 2023).
  • Individuals Using Prescribed Beta Blocker Medication: Individuals using beta blocker medication to decrease heart rate, lower blood pressure, or control arrhythmia (abnormal heart rhythms) may be encouraged by their healthcare providers to monitor and document their heart rate and any changes they may experience. Monitoring heart rates can help individuals keep track of any changes, which can help their general practitioner make informed decisions about dosage and medication options (American Heart Association, 2023).

Exercise training: Health coaches may use the chart to help inform their clients' exercise or physical activity plans, using it as a measure of exercise intensity. Specifically, the heart rate chart can be used as a reference for maximum heart rate (MRH) to inform exercise plans. For example, it is recommended that individuals complete 150 minutes of low to medium-intensity exercise and 50% to 70% of MHR, respectively. Using the heart rate chart and measuring heart rate can help clients stay within the range (Heart Foundation, n.d.).

What Do the Results Mean?

The results using our free heart rate chart may be multifaceted and differ amongst individuals depending on several factors influencing health and fitness. These may include air temperature, prescription medication use, physical fitness, exposure to stress, and body positioning (American Heart Association, 2021). However, here are some common results and what they may hold for an individual: 

  • Normal Resting Heart Rate: Individuals may be within the normal resting ranges for their age group, indicating good health and fitness. However, it is essential to monitor heart rate over the lifespan by, for example, completing routine checkups with healthcare providers to be proactive in one’s health to reduce risks of developing health complications. 
  • Tachycardia: This occurs when heart rates are abnormally high, over 100 bpm during rest. Though causal differs, it may be due to experiences of dehydration or fever and may also indicate underlying health conditions such as anemia and heart rhythm abnormalities. If an individual has an abnormal heart rate, it is essential to contact a healthcare professional (Cleveland Clinic, 2022; Hipps, 2023). 
  • Bradycardia: An individual may have a very low resting heart rate under 60 bpm, which can cause dizziness, fatigue, or fainting. This can cause dizziness or fainting; contacting a healthcare provider or completing screenings is essential (Cleveland Clinic, 2022; Hipps, 2023). 
  • Irregular Pulse (Arrhythmia): Individuals may identify an irregular or unstable heart rhythm when checking their heart rate, which may be irregular, also called an irregular pulse. Individuals may sometimes feel their heart racing, jumping, off-beat, or unusually slow in this state. Though typically harmless, individuals and healthcare professionals must check this using an electrocardiogram (ECG) machine, as it can be an indicator of an underlying heart condition like atrial fibrillation. This can help mitigate health complications such as stroke (Heart Foundation, n.d.). 

It is crucial to consult with healthcare providers if individuals face any concerns regarding low, high, or irregular heart rates.

Research and Evidence

Heart rate charts are most effective for monitoring heart rates during rest, exercise, and when completing routine measurements. The chart provides a visual reference tool to identify whether individuals are within the recommended heart rate ranges during wakeful rest and activity, indicating exercise intensity, fitness, and overall health. 

Despite a lack of studies investigating the worth of heart rate charts in healthcare environments, the value of these charts is well observed in their presence amongst articles produced by reputable medical websites and heart foundation organizations, such as the Heart Foundation. The consistent use of heart rate charts in health and medicine provides a wide dissemination of heart rate information that can enhance the practices and protocols of organizations managing heart health. 

Heart rate charts provide insight into heart health and can indicate overall health or diagnose underlying health concerns (Cleveland Clinic, 2022). Whether used in annual checkups, exercise prescriptions, urgent care, or intensive care, monitoring heart rates is vital in health screening to mitigate heart-related adverse outcomes and maintain overall health (American Heart Association, n.d.; Cleveland Clinic, 2022).

References

American Heart Association (2021). Target Heart Rates Chart. American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates

American Heart Association (2023). All About Heart Rate (Pulse). American Heart Association. https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/all-about-heart-rate-pulse

Cleveland Clinic (2022). Pulse & Heart Rate. Cleveland Clinic. https://my.clevelandclinic.org/health/diagnostics/17402-pulse--heart-rate

Cunha, J. P. (n.d.). What are Target Heart Rates (Chart)? Emedicinehealth. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/what_are_target_heart_rates_chart/article_em.htm

Heart Foundation (n.d.). Understanding your pulse (heart rate). Heart Foundation. https://www.heartfoundation.org.nz/wellbeing/managing-risk/how-to-check-your-pulse-heart-rate

Hipps, D. (2023). Normal Resting Heart Rate by Age (Chart). ForbesHealth. https://www.forbes.com/health/healthy-aging/normal-heart-rate-by-age/

Who typically requests a Heart Rate Chart?
Who typically requests a Heart Rate Chart?

Commonly asked questions

Who typically requests a Heart Rate Chart?

Anyone seeking to monitor their heart rate or compare it with the age-related ranges based on activity can request a heart rate chart. These may typically be requested by general practitioners, nurses, health coaches, or individuals.

When are Heart Rate Charts used?

Heart rate charts are primarily used as a reference tool for managing and monitoring heart rate. Scenarios that may typically be used include routine health checkups, exercise prescriptions, or intensive care units.

How are Heart Rate Charts used?

These charts are used as a visual reference tool to compare measured heart rate, either during rest or immediately following activity, with the recommended age ranges specific to the training status. For example, when identifying if the resting heart rate is healthy, general practitioners may measure the patient's heart rate at wakeful rest and compare it to the resting heart rate range relevant to the patient’s age.

How long does a Heart Rate Chart take?

A heart rate chart can take a matter of minutes! After measuring pulse (heartbeats per minute), individuals or healthcare practitioners can compare this value to the relevant section in the heart rate chart.

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