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by Karl Connor Fitness Articles

fitness & training articles



Swimming Heart Rate
What should my heart rate be, when I swim? It depends on how you calculate it,/b>

Traditionally, the equation “220-age” has been used to estimate a person’s maximum heart rate, and, an intensity range of 60 to 90% of a persons estimated maximum heart rate is considered to elicit a safe cardio respiratory or aerobic effect during training.

A more accurate way to calculate exercise intensity via heart rate is to use Karvonens formula. To do this, you must know your resting heart rate. Find it by taking your heart rate for 60 seconds for three mornings before rising from bed, and average the three. Then, calculate as follows:

220 – Age – Resting Heart Rate = Heart Rate Reserve

Heart Rate Reserve x 50% + Resting Heart Rate = Minimum Training Threshold

Heart Rate Reserve x 85% + Resting Heart Rate = Maximum Training Threshold

Is everyone’s maximum heart rate “220 – their age”?

No, both of the methods above are based upon that assumption. So, where did 220 come from? It supposedly relates somehow to newborn babies maximum heart rate. Strangely, nobody has ever put a baby on a treadmill to find out, and research has established that there may be a margin of error as large as 30 beats per minute in 220 based formulas. So, what is the best way to estimate maximum heart rate?

210 minus 50% of your age minus 5% of your body weight (pounds) + 4 if male and 0 if female = Estimated Maximum heart rate but, exercising in the water is different.

Your heart rate during exercise in the water is 13% or 17 beats per minute lower than your heart rate during comparable land based exercise.

There are five theories as to why, and they make good sense!

Temperature - Water cools the body with less effort than air. This reduced effort means less work for the heart, resulting in a lower heart rate.

Gravity - Water reduces the effect of gravity on the body. Blood flows from below the heart back up to it with less effort, resulting in a lowered heart rate.

Compression - Water is thought to act like a compressor on all body systems, including the vascular system, causing a smaller venous load to the heart than equivalent land exercise.

Partial Pressure - A gas enters a liquid more readily under pressure. In water exercise, the gas is oxygen and the liquid is the blood. So, more efficient gas transfer due to water pressure may reduce the workload of the heart.

Dive Reflex - a primitive reflex associated with a nerve found in the nasal area. When the face is submerged in water, this reflex lowers heart rate and blood pressure. This reflex is stronger in some individuals than in others. Some research suggests that the face doesnt even need to be in the water for the dive reflex to occur. Some people experience its effect when standing in chest deep water.

How do I calculate my target heart rate for swimming?

Take a 13% or 17 beats per minute deduction from your minimum and maximum training thresholds on land.

Strap on your heart rate monitor, jump in the pool, and know that you are exercising at a more accurate target heart rate for swimming! Click Here to see our full range of heart rate monitors

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