What Happens to the Pulse After Exercise?

What Happens to the Pulse After Exercise?

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Everyone's pulse rate is different, so compare yours to your previous numbers, not someone else's.

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You may check your pulse once or twice in the middle of your workout, helping you keep track of your exercise intensity. The pulse increases when you work out, and then decreases again when you've finished exercising. However, it's not only the pulse rate during your workout that can be important; the rate at which it drops is also a value worth tracking.


  • Your pulse gradually returns to normal after a workout session. How quickly this occurs depends on your level of fitness.

What Happens to Your Pulse

Muscles use oxygen to create the fuel needed for the work involved in exercise. Your muscles need more fuel when you exercise, and that's why your heart rate, or pulse, increases. After exercise, your heart rate returns to its normal or resting rate fairly quickly. Like other muscles, the heart gets more efficient at its work the more often you exercise, so your pulse rate will decrease the more п¬Ѓt you get. The pulse rates of people with a greater level of fitness also drop more quickly post-exercise.

Recovery Heart Rate

Athletes and regular exercisers monitor their heart rates during exercise to get a sense of how hard they're working. They'll also monitor the recovery rate, or the speed at which the pulse rate returns to normal. This can help them determine whether they're making progress and increasing their level of cardiorespiratory п¬Ѓtness.

Calculate Recovery Rate

To calculate your recovery rate, use a heart rate monitor and note your heart rate immediately after exercising. A heart rate monitor is preferable to feeling for a pulse because you won't have to spend time counting the number of beats you feel in a 10- or 15-second period - during which time the pulse will go down. If you don't have a heart rate monitor, you can do it the old-fashioned way by placing your п¬Ѓngers on your carotid artery and counting the number of beats you feel in 15 seconds; multiply that number by four to calculate your beats per minute. Take your pulse again one minute after exercising. Subtract the second number from the п¬Ѓrst to arrive at your recovery rate. The higher the number, the more п¬Ѓt you are.

Things to Consider

If you continue to work out and monitor your recovery rate over time, you can expect to see an increase in your recovery rate. To get consistent results, be sure to choose one measurement method - heart rate monitor or feeling for a pulse - and stick to it. When you exercise at high intensity, you're in an anaerobic, or oxygen-deprived, state. After anaerobic exercise, your body takes longer to recover from that oxygen debt, and your pulse may remain elevated longer; it could take about three minutes to return to a resting rate. Thus, you may want to keep one training log of your recovery rates during moderate-intensity exercise and another for your anaerobic workouts - those above about an 8 on a scale of zero to 10; these are the workouts during which it's difficult to say more than a word or two at a time.