Variation in heart rate during submaximal exercise: implications for monitoring training

J Strength Cond Res. 2004 Aug;18(3):641-5. doi: 10.1519/1533-4287(2004)18<641:VIHRDS>2.0.CO;2.


A change in heart rate at a controlled submaximal exercise intensity is used as a marker of training status. However, the standard error of measurement has not been studied systematically, and therefore a change in heart rate, which can be considered relevant, has not been determined. Forty-four subjects (26.5 +/- 5.4 years; mean +/- standard deviation) participated in a submaximal running test at the same time of day for 5 consecutive days. Heart rates were determined during each of the 4 exercise intensities (2 minutes each) of increasing intensity and during the 1-minute recovery period after each stage. The repeatability of the heart rate on a day-to-day basis during the stages and recovery periods were high (intraclass correlation coefficient: 95% confidence interval R = 0.94- 0.99). The lowest variation in heart rate occurred in the fourth stage ( approximately 90% maximum heart rate) with heart rate varying 5 +/- 2 b.min(-1) (95% confidence interval for coefficient of variation = 1.1-1.4%). In conclusion, the standard error of measurement of submaximal heart rate is 1.1-1.4%. This magnitude of measurement error needs to be considered when heart rate is used as a marker of training status.

Publication types

  • Clinical Trial
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Female
  • Heart Rate / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Monitoring, Physiologic / methods
  • Physical Education and Training / methods*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Reference Values
  • Rest / physiology
  • Running / physiology
  • Sports Medicine / methods*