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Cycling is an effective way to strengthen the health of your heart.
Whether you're looking for a new way to commute to work or just favor strapping on your helmet and taking a bike ride to melt away some stress, cycling contributes positively to a strong, healthy body. You'll notice an increase in your heart rate once you begin pedaling, but the exact rate you experience depends on your age, exercise intensity and overall health.
Key Factor: Your Age
Your heart rate, on average, beats between 50 and 70 percent of your maximum rate when you're exercising at a moderate pace. When cycling vigorously, your heart rate increases to between 70 and 85 percent. The average heart rate of a cyclist exercising at either intensity depends on the cyclist's age, given the important link between your age and maximum heart rate. A 30-year-old cyclist has a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute, and thus an average heart rate between 95 and 133 beats per minute when cycling at a moderate pace. At a vigorous pace, the same person's heart rate is between 133 and 162 beats per minute.
Medication and Weather Can Cause Changes
It's possible for you to experience a heart rate that is higher or lower than the average due to several factors. The American Heart Association reports that people who weigh significantly more than average often experience a higher heart rate. Medication can also affect your heart rate; beta blockers result in a lower heart rate, while thyroid medication can cause your heart rate to increase. If you're cycling in excessively warm conditions, your heart rate might increase a few beats per minute.
Talk Aloud to Test Your Pace
Vigorous cycling burns calories faster than cycling at a moderate pace, but the latter pace is easier to sustain continuously. If your bike isn't equipped with a speedometer and you want to measure your level of exertion -- perhaps as a factor that influences the length of your workout -- the "talk test" is helpful. Say a simple phrase aloud, and if you can't finish the phrase without taking an additional breath, your intensity is vigorous. Completing the phase in a single breath indicates a moderate intensity.
Tracking Your Progress
Ultimately, your heart rate when you workout is unique to you, since your activity levels and even the amount of sleep you get can affect it on your ride. So instead of comparing your heart rate to averages for your age group, start recording your heart rate during each ride and compare your previous results. As you get fitter, you should be able to work harder at the same heart rate -- or have a lower heart rate working at the same level of exertion -- and comparing your results allows you to see how much you've improved.