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Real Life Nutrition Questions Answered

Real Life Fitness Questions Answered

Emma Brown
Nutritionist

Janet Aylott
Nutritionist

Kelly Marshall
Fitness Consultant

Q.

How should I adjust my heart rate zones with betablockers?

Hi, I would like to progress from casual jogging to organised 5K and 10K events. I have full clearance for this from my GP but I take beta-blockers and am unsure how to calculate my heart rate zones as a result. Do I calculate the zones as normal e.g. 220 less age = max heart rate, from which I can calculate 85%, 75% etc, then reduce each by a percentage to reflect the beta-blocker effect ? Any other tips about exercising while using beta-blockers? They will be a life-long medication. Thanks in advance

A.

Our expert says...

Hi

With beta blockers being designed to block adrenaline and relieve stress to the heart muscle to aid blood pressure and slow heart rate, you are right to question the accuracy of heart rate zones whilst taking beta blockers.  The readings you get from a heart rate monitor are most likely going to be inaccurate and not line up with your perceived exertion.

You can try lowering your target heart rate by the same amount that your resting heart rate has been lowered by the beta blocker.  For example, if your resting heart rate has decreased from 70 to 50, then try working at a target heart rate 20 beats per minute lower than what you would usually do.  This way of calculating your adjusted target heart rate isn't entirely accurate as sometimes the peak exercise heart rate is affected much more than the resting heart rate.

I would suggest using a scale like the Borg scale to monitor intensity/effort level instead of a heart rate monitor:

BORG SCALE:

6

7 very, very light exertion

8

9 very light exertion

10

11 fairly light exertion

12

13 somewhat hard exertion

14

15 hard exertion

16

17 very hard exertion

18

19 very, very hard exertion

20

During activity, use the Borg Scale to assign numbers to how you feel.  This scale will allow you to monitor your exercise more accurately then with your heart rate monitor. It is generally agreed that perceived exertion ratings between 12 to 14 on the Borg Scale suggests that physical activity is being performed at a moderate level of intensity.

Keep your exercise varied and try to include a combination of cardiovascular, strength and core work within your programme.  With your goal of running 5K and 10K events, obvously running will be an important part of your routine but try to include other forms of cardiovascular exercise including cycling, swimming, walking, x-training, paying attention to your rate of perceived exertion on the Borg scale.   Sweat production is important during exercise to cool the body down, some beta blockers can impede this process so ensure you drink plenty of water to avoid any heat realated issues.

Hope this helps,

Kelly

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