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How To Monitor Exercise So It Doesn't Become Harmful

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You can monitor the effect of exercise yourself through a variety of means such as measuring heart rate, the "walk and talk" test, or bad vs. good pain. The following content was provided by Julie Finocchiaro, DPT, Johns Hopkins Physical Medicine and Rehabilitation


You can check your heart rate by monitoring your radial pulse on your wrist. Normal heart rates are between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

Step 1.Calculate your maximum heart rate. As a general matter, you can calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 60, your maximum heart rate is 220 less 60 = 160.

Step 2. Set a target heart rate. For example, multiply your maximum heart rate by somehwere between 50% and 80%. For example, 50% of 160 is: 160 x .5 = 80.

Step 3. MeasureTo measure your heart rate as follows:

  • Put your index and middle fingers right on the pulse. 
    • Do not use your thumb. The thumb has a pulse in it which will be confusing.
    • Do no press too hard. It changes the pulse.
  • Ctep 2. Count how many beats you feel in one minute. 
    • You can count the beats for 60 seconds or
    • If your beat is steady, you can count the number of beats in 15 seconds and multiply times 4. 

NOTE: If the beat is irregular, let your doctor know.


Can you carry on a conversation while exercising? If you cannot because you are too short of breath - either slow down or stop all together.


"Bad pain" is when you have adverse symptoms such as one of the following:

  • Sharp, stabbing, or burning pain
  • Joint or bone pain
  • Numbness
  • Tingling
  • Chest Pain
  • Dizziness

"Bad pain" contrasts with "good pain". Good pain with exercise is when one of the following occurs:

  • You feel your muscles working
  • You have a mild stretching/pulling sensation
  • You have muscle fatigue or delayed onset muscle soreness which starts one or two days after exercise.

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