Exercising Is “PhUn”: What Your Heart Rate Says About Your Fitness

Physiology Understanding (PhUn) Week takes physiology to the classroom through scientist-student outreach. This year’s PhUn Week wrapped up last Friday, but you can still continue the “PhUn” at home. Here’s an activity contributed by PhUn Week mentor Patricia A. Halpin, PhD:

This is a PhUn experiment that’s great to try with second to 10th graders (but adults may have fun with it, too!). Here, we test the hypothesis that performing exercise increases heart rate.

What You’ll Need:

  • A stopwatch
  • Paper and pen
  • A clear space to perform exercise

Step 1: Record Your Resting Heart Rate.

Place your index and middle finger on the inside of your wrist or on your neck (in the soft area just below your jawline) to find your pulse. Count how many times your heart beats in 60 seconds (use your stopwatch to keep the time). Write down the number of beats you counted.

Step 2: Exercise.

Choose an exercise to perform, such as jogging in place, jumping jacks, push-ups or jumping rope. Set your stopwatch for three to five minutes and start your exercise.

Step 3: Record Your Post-Exercise Heart Rate.

Take your pulse the same way you did at the beginning of the experiment and write down your results. Compare the results. What did you find?

What Happened?

Your heart rate went up with exercise because more blood is pumped to the muscles you used during exercise. The blood brings needed oxygen to your cells so they can make energy for movement. With regular exercise, your heart rate will take less time to return to your resting heart rate. This is a sign of fitness. So, the next time you are exercising, take your resting heart rate and post-exercise heart rate and measure your fitness.

Patricia Halpin, PhD

Patricia A. Halpin, PhD, is an assistant professor in the Biological Sciences Program at University of New Hampshire at Manchester.

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