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If you want to get a rough idea of your overall health, your heart rate is a good place to start. During exercise, your heart rate increases to provide your body with enough energy to perform work. Your level of fitness directly affects your heart rate, which tends to increase if you're overweight. An increased resting heart rate puts more stress on your heart during and following exercise.
Weight and Body Mass Index
Body weight doesn't necessarily play a role in heart rate before, during or after exercise so much as your body mass index. The BMI is a number calculated by factoring in your weight relative to your height using a medical formula. A BMI between 25 and 30 is considered overweight, while a BMI exceeding 30 is considered obese.
BMI and Heart Rate
People with a high BMI may have serious health risks, including hypertension. If you have hypertension, you will have a higher heart rate and higher blood pressure, which will affect your ability to perform and recover from exercise safely. The more fatty tissue you have, the harder your heart has to work to push blood to that tissue.
Heart Rate Recovery
Although obesity will affect your resting heart rate, it's more difficult to determine how it will affect your heart rate recovery. Heart rate recovery is how long it takes your heart rate to return to normal resting levels following a bout of exercise. If your cardiovascular system is under stress at rest because of a high body mass index, it will have to work much harder during exercise. This means your heart rate will take longer to recover after a strenuous workout, which may put you at risk for heart-related illnesses.
Recovery and Mortality
According to a study published in "The New England Journal of Medicine" in 1999, poor heart rate recovery after exercise may be correlated with increased risk of mortality. A reduction of 12 beats per minute or less following the cessation of exercise was cited as a major concern indicative of problems ahead for subjects involved in the study. If you have poor heart rate recovery, it could be indicative of a heart-related illness, so you should consult with your doctor for further testing. Otherwise, begin a new exercise routine with light or moderate-intensity workouts and gradually pick up the pace from there as your fitness improves, your body mass index is reduced and your cardiovascular system adapts.