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What is a Dangerously High Heart Rate When Exercising?

The human body has certain vital stats that indicate the general health condition of the body and also the fact that whether there is something wrong with the health of a person. One of the very important elements of these vital stats is the rate of the heartbeat of a person. It happens to be one of the pertinent indications of the state of health of the person. At the time of exercising, along with the rate of breathing, often the heartbeat also increases. It is one of the most natural mechanisms of the human body and there is certainly nothing alarming about the whole thing. However, there happens to be a certain limit to which it can increase and not beyond that. In case, this limit is exceeded every time you exercise and if this increased heart rate continues and persists for a very long tenure then it can be really problematic. This is the time when you should see a doctor without any further delay. The question then arises is till what exactly is a safe heartbeat and what is dangerously high heart rate when exercising. Let us find the answers to it and understand how to monitor and understand your own body.

What is a Dangerously High Heart Rate When Exercising?

It is normal that the heartbeat rate will increase during the time of the exercising sessions; it has to remain within certain limits. It needs to be made clear here that there is no cut mark that will indicate at the ideal heartbeat rate for an individual at the time of working out. This is one of the factors that could get affected by a large number of aspects such as the weight of the person and very importantly the age of the person (1). There are certainly other factors that yet again need to be taken into consideration such as the temperature or the general climate as heat and extra humidity can also lead to an increase in the heart rate. The fitness of the person is also of major consideration. One also needs to take into account the medications that are being taken by the person. Medications like beta-blockers may reduce your heartbeat and thyroid medication may increase the heartbeat rate. Stress or emotional pressure could yet again be one of the pertinent factors that can increase your heartbeat rate. What is normal heartbeat while exercising for one person might not be so for another person.

One of the thumb rules that are followed in this context is a simple rule of subtracting the age of the person from 220 (2, 3, 4). For example, for a person of an age of 40 years will have to subtract 40 from 220. In this case, then 180 is the maximum heartbeat rate that is permissible for the person. Anything that goes higher to this and remains that way for a longer tenure could be really harmful and dangerous for the person. The heartbeat rate is generally calculated on the basis of the reading scored on a per-minute basis. It is said that the readings can go as high as 70 – 80% of the normal heartbeat rate (5). Apart from the fact that how high the heart rate is being read, it is also important that the tenure for which it is remaining that way is also important to note and observe. It could be one of the major indications of whether the person is having a cardiac problem or not.

Why Does Heart Rate Increase When Exercising?

Every part of our body needs oxygen and blood at every single second. This need increases when we induce in any kind of physical activity. At the time of exercising, our body needs a much greater amount of oxygenated blood. This is also because during this time our muscles need more energy to respond to the various calls that we make on them to move our body with increased vigor (1, 2). This is when the heart has to pump more blood into the body parts especially the muscles. This is the why the heart rate experiences a potential increase and eventually the systolic blood pressure also increases. The systolic blood pressure is the blood pressure in the vessels at the time when the heart pumps in the blood into the blood vessels. Hence, this is also an indication that the heart is working harder to pump in a greater amount of blood into the blood vessels and that too at a faster rate.


Some of the common symptoms of an increased heartbeat rate are having breathlessness and a lightheaded feeling. You can feel suddenly dry-mouthed and even a sudden palpitation in your chest. These are some of the most common things to experience at the time of working out. Especially if you are into some sort of cardio exercise or workout session, it could lead to a major increase in your heartbeat rate. You must keep a close watch on your heartbeat rate even if you do not have a prior history of a cardiac problem. An increase in heart rate while exercising is normal; however, dangerously high heart rate for a prolonged period of time can be risky and indicate towards cardiac problems.


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Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Sheetal DeCaria, M.D.
Written, Edited or Reviewed By: Sheetal DeCaria, M.D. This article does not provide medical advice. See disclaimer
Last Modified On:November 8, 2019

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