Thursday 27 February 2014

A few notes on using a HR Monitor for pacing

 Dr VanNess recently suggested that ME patients should keep their HR low.

 (Since Summer 2014 - I've now returned to wearing a HR monitor all day every day. This blogpost was written after my first round of HR monitoring using a chest strap monitor.  I stopped with that monitor because it was so uncomfortable and unreliable.  The new watch varieties are much more life friendly.)

I wore a Heart Rate (HR) monitor for 6 weeks once - all waking hours!  The following are a few notes on what I found out:

Things that elevated HR included:
  • arguments
  • exertion
  • moving quickly
  • lifting things (esp above head - eg cup from high shelf)
  • walking at anything beyond a very slow amble
  • concentrating on a debate (either online or RL)
  • anything vaguely defined as an "activity"!

Resting HR also went up gradually through the day.  On PEM (post exertional malaise) days HR was higher throughout

 I found that I could bring my HR down by:

  • Using relaxation techniques
  • Stepping away from the computer
  • Getting away from others and the need to converse
  • Lying back and dreaming of a beach
  • Going to bed! (Or at least getting my feet up.)
  • Stopping what I was doing & waiting a bit before restarting
  • Sitting down for tasks - eg on a stool to chop veg for dinner
  • Doing breathing exercises 
  • Stroking the dog!

A Strategy for Keeping HR low:

  • Do things slowly and with rest breaks.  
  • Limit stimulating environments or situations.
  • Intersperse activity days (eg meeting a friend for coffee) with non-activity days
  • Don't ever push on anyway.  Not ever!  Listen and rest.
  • Accept help.
  • Shop online rather than pushing a trolley.
  • Read more (as a distraction from "doing" more).
  • Accept some things are too much
  • Find other outlets instead.
  • Keep talking to the dogs.


I have decided that the occasional 1 or 2 minute high is less damaging than an elevated HR all day. So those little bits of excitement (for me doing agility with my dog) could perhaps still fit in there.

But not on days where my resting HR was elevated ( ie I was already in PEM).

I also found that a HR monitor with a chest band, and bulky watch, is uncomfortable, unreliable and expensive on batteries.  It is not a long term solution.  More recently I have found a watch that can take my pulse when I place my finger on a sensor.  Much easier to integrate into my life altogether!

This is the one I found on Ebay - cheap and cheerful and very effective.

[Edit Jan 2015 - I have now been HR monitoring daily for several months, and have started to use a Mio Alpha HR monitor with an app called Endomondo on my phone. Details of the graphs Endomondo produces can be found here.]

Further Reading:

However for those interested in more about using a HR monitor for pacing for ME, check out this blog post from Jennie Spotila:

Also on my blog:
Exercise The Catch 22

Why NOT Exercise?
Pacing for ME and Using a Fitbit

Index of posts on my blog, including more recent pacing thoughts here:
Just ME: Index


  1. Hi Sally,

    I found this post really helpful. I've been wearing a wrist HR monitor for a bit (Beurer) and it really is the best outward indicator of internal trouble. Finding your resting HR at 154 at your child's sports day for example! Especially when clambering out of a relapse (as I'm doing right now) it is an invaluable aid. I'm so glad it's helping you too.

    kindest wishes,


    1. I find excitement can raise HR too... Perhaps you were cheering too enthusiastically? LOL

      I've got another monitor now, that doesn't use a chest strap, and records continuous data for graphs. It is proving very useful.