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The Relationship Between Exercise and Pulse Rate

by Doug Bennett

About Doug Bennett

Doug Bennett has been researching and writing nonfiction works for more than 20 years. His books have been distributed worldwide and his articles have been featured in numerous websites, newspapers and regional publications. Bennett's background includes experience in law enforcement, the military, sound reinforcement and vehicle repair/maintenance.


There is a direct relationship between your pulse rate and aerobic exercise. The harder you work out, the higher your pulse. How hard you work out is called intensity and there are three basic levels: light, moderate and vigorous. According to the Centers for Disease Control, you should perform at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise each week.

Aerobic Exercise

Aerobic exercise rhythmically works large muscle groups over a sustained period of time, typically at least 10 to 20 minutes. This type of exercise targets your heart and lungs, requiring them to deliver more oxygen to your muscles. The cardiovascular load results in an increase in your heart rate. The amount of this increase depends on the intensity of your workout. The harder you exercise, the higher your pulse rate. By targeting your heart rate to a desired intensity level, you can get the most from your workouts.

Target Heart Rate

Calculating your target heart rate begins with determining your maximum heart rate. Because your heart slows down slightly as you grow older, your maximum heart rate is age dependent. For healthy adults, subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 35, your maximum heart rate will be 185. Next, multiply your maximum heart rate by the intensity percentage you wish to exercise at. This target heart rate is the pulse rate you should maintain during your aerobic exercise.

Light Intensity Exercise

Warm-up and light-intensity exercise should raise your pulse rate to between 40 and 50 percent of your maximum heart rate. For example, if you are 35, you should maintain a pulse rate of between 74 and 92 beats per minute. Examples of light-intensity aerobic exercise include stretching, slow walking and activities such as general house cleaning. Your breathing should increase but you will still be able to talk in full sentences.

Moderate Intensity Exercise

Moderate-intensity exercise should raise your pulse rate to between 50 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. If you're 35, you should maintain a pulse rate of between 92 and 130 beats per minute. Examples of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise include brisk walking, swimming, mowing your lawn and riding a bike on level terrain. Your breathing should quicken, but you should not be out of breath and you should be able to speak in short sentences.

Vigorous Intensity Exercise

Vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise should raise your pulse rate to between 70 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. A 35-year-old should maintain a pulse rate of between 130 and 157 beats per minute. Examples of vigorous-intensity aerobic exercise include jogging or running, aerobic dancing, swimming laps, riding a bike on hilly terrain and playing sports, such as basketball. Your breathing should be deep and rapid, causing you to frequently pause to take a breath while talking.

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This article reflects the views of the writer and does not necessarily reflect the views of Jillian Michaels or JillianMichaels.com.