Sports Medicine

, Volume 5, Issue 5, pp 303–311 | Cite as

Heart Rate and Exercise Intensity During Sports Activities

Practical Application
  • Juha Karvonen
  • Timo Vuorimaa
Research Review


Variations in heart rate during exercise correlate with changes of exercise intensity and may be measured directly by radiotelemetry and continuous ECG recording. The heart rate can also be recorded in the memory of a microcomputer, which can be carried on the wrist as easily as a watch. The device has a transmitter and a receiver.

By recording the heart rate during a training session or a segment of training, and calculating the average of the heart rate and comparing this average to both the maximum heart rate of the individual and his heart rate at rest, the relative heart rate to the intensity of the work load (% maximum heart rate) can be calculated. These results are useful in planning optimal training intensities for both the healthy and rehabilitating athlete.

The use of target heart rate as a tool for exercise prescription is common. It represents the percentage difference between resting and maximum heart rate added to the resting heart rate. For calculating target heart rate there are also 2 other methods. The first represents the percentage of the maximum heart rate (%HRmax) calculated from zero to peak heart rate. The second represents the heart rate at a specified percentage of maximum MET (V̇2max).

An appropriate individual heart rate for each level of an endurance performance is best determined in the laboratory. This is carried out by increasing the speed of the runner in stages on a treadmill and by measuring the oxygen uptake, the lactic acid concentration in the blood and corresponding variations in the heart rate. From these results the running speed and heart rate corresponding to aerobic, partly anaerobic or strongly anaerobic running can be determined. The %HRmax values obtained by continuous ECG recording and telemetry have been used to measure the physical work load in alpine skiing. Alpine skiing has been recorded as exercise which improves general physical fitness and aerobic capacity. However, it has been found to increase more the anaerobic capacity than the aerobic capacity. This should be taken into consideration when planning the training of general physical fitness of alpine skiers.


Heart Rate Exercise Intensity Maximum Heart Rate Anaerobic Threshold Exercise Prescription 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© ADIS Press Limited 1988

Authors and Affiliations

  • Juha Karvonen
    • 1
    • 2
  • Timo Vuorimaa
    • 1
    • 2
  1. 1.Department of Clinical PhysiologyUniversity of UmeåUmeåSweden
  2. 2.Finnish Amateur Athletic AssociationHelsinkiFinland

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