An athlete is an individual, who works hard and strives for the highest level of fitness. The word 'fitness' is a very broad term and it implies the overall health of the person. One of the most important defining characteristics of fitness is the heart rate of the individual. It is usually seen that an athlete's resting heart rate is lower than the average rate for normal people. Given below are details regarding the same and what it signifies.
Why is the Resting Heart so Important for Athletes
The main reason why athletes go in for heart rate training is to increase the anaerobic threshold. Basically, it is to ensure that you derive maximum efficiency while exercising and performing. The aim of this is to ensure that, instead of stressing out the aerobic system of breakdown for energy, you try to break down carbohydrates or glycogen. This ensures that there is no protein breakdown and so, no muscle wasting despite excessive exercising.
Ideal RHR for Athletes
A good resting heart rate for athletes is a heart rate that is around 50-60 beats per minute or lower. Moreover, a rate of around 50 heartbeats per minute is said to be quite good. To bring the heart rate lower than 45 beats, you need to do rigorous exercising for a long period on a consistent basis. A cyclist named Lance Armstrong has the heart rate of 32 beats per minute, which is an exceptionally healthy resting heart rate. Although a fixed lower limit of heart rate has not been defined, it is widely accepted that a heart rate that is lesser than 30 is not necessarily healthy.
As mentioned above, the point of endurance training is to help increase the functioning capacity of the heart and the muscles. So, the reason why athletes have a lower RHR is that, in one single contraction of the heart, more blood is pumped out as against other people's heart. This has a double positive effect - there is more blood and oxygen reaching the muscles, with less amount of energy expended and the energy that is required is obtained by the saved up carbohydrates in the body rather than proteins.
Risks Involved with Very Low RHR
When an athlete has a resting rate of the heart that is lesser than thirty, there aren't many risks involved with this condition except that, at times, dangerously low levels of heart rate,i.e., bradycardia, may go undiagnosed, because, it may be assumed that an athlete's heart rate is usually low and it is a normal condition. Also, the person has higher vulnerability to severe symptoms of any condition that leads to lesser blood flow to the heart. Thus, this can lead to decreased blood flow to the organs and may even cause occasional fainting spells. If you are suffering from such a condition, then you need to see a cardiologist right away.
There is also a condition known as athletic heart syndrome or athletic bradycardia, which is seen due to rigorous exercise. In this condition, there is cardiomegaly, i.e., an abnormal increase in the size of the heart. This is basically because, when more blood is pumped out, the force of contraction of the left ventricle increases, which is the reason why, it increases in size and leads to cardiomegaly. This needn't necessarily be accompanied by any severe symptoms, however, if there is a heart condition that is leading to responsive cardiomegaly, then it may become difficult to detect and diagnose it.
Although the heart rate of an athlete is by no means a way to know which athlete has better chances of performing and winning in a sports event, it does manage to offer an excellent measure for knowing the intensity with which an individual is exercising and what can be done to increase his fitness level further.