How to check your heart rate using your pulse

Personal/Fitness Training Blog

It is possible to check your pulse by counting the number of heartbeats you feel during the course of a minute. Your pulse is the frequency at which your heart is beating. This is measured by using the number of beats in a minute.

Your heart rate can differ depending on the activity that you’re performing.  For example, your heart rate will be slower if you’re sleeping. It will be faster if you’re exercising.

How to find your pulse

It is possible to find your pulse in places that an artery passes close to your skin, for example your wrist or, alternatively, your neck. To find your pulse in your wrist:

  • Hold out one of your hands. Have your palm facing upwards with your elbow slightly bent.
  • Put the index and middle finger of the other hand onto the inside of your wrist. Place these at the bottom of your thumb.
  • Press your skin lightly until the point where you can feel your pulse. If you are unable to feel anything, it may be necessary to press a little harder or, alternatively, move your fingers around.

To find the pulse in your neck:

  • Push the same two fingers onto the side of your neck in the soft hollow area just beside your Adam’s apple.

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How to  check your pulse

When you find your pulse:

  • Count the amount of beats you feel for one full minute, or
  • Count the number of beats for 30 seconds and multiply by two

The figure you get is the number of times a minute your heart is beating. It’s known as your resting heart rate, as long as you’ve been resting for at least 10 minutes before checking your pulse. It is also possible to check if your pulse is regular or irregular by feeling its rhythm for about 20-30 seconds.

Occasional irregular heartbeats, such as missed beats, are very common. However, if your pulse is irregular for a continued length of time, it can be a sign of atrial fibrillation (a heart condition that causes an irregular and often abnormally fast heart rate). This more commonly affects people who are 55 or over.  If you’re concerned about your pulse, see your GP.

What’s a normal heart rate?

For adults, 95% of normal people have a resting heart rate of between 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). The fitter that you are, the lower your resting heart rate will probably be. For instance, athletes may have a resting heart rate of between 40 and 60 bpm or lower.

You should contact your GP if you feel that your heart rate is always above 120 bpm or below 40 bpm. However, this could just be normal for you.

Exercise and your pulse

If you monitor your pulse while you’re exercising, or immediately afterwards, it may give you an suggestion of your fitness level. In addition, a heart rate monitor is a useful tool for recording your heart rate when resting as well as during exercise. Aerobic activities – such as walking, running and swimming – are good types of exercise as these increase your heart and breathing rates.

How to check someone else’s pulse

You can usually check a person’s pulse by placing two fingers on:

  • A vein in the wrist (just underneath the thumb bone), or
  • An artery in the neck (just underneath the jaw).

Hold the individual’s arm so that it’s straight with the underside facing up. Feel around their wrist, by using your index (first) and middle finger of one hand, until you find their pulse. Alternatively, press the same two fingers to one side of their neck, just beneath their jaw. If you’re counting a person’s pulse, make use of a watch with a second hand. Cautiously count how many beats you feel in a full minute. A normal resting heart rate for an adult is 60 – 100 beats per minute.

A person’s heart rate plays a vital part in exercise and it needs to be monitored very carefully. A personal trainer will be able to tell you more.

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