Heart Palpitations/High Heart Rate and Exercise

  • 1st Revision: Isobel Lester
  • 2nd Revision: Alex Jasnosz
  • 3rd Revision: Tricia Li

Short Introductory Video

What are heart palpitations?

Your heart rate, or pulse, is the number of times your heart beats in one minute (measured in bpm: beats per minute). Heart palpitations are when your heartbeat suddenly becomes more noticeable and fast. It may also create a sensation that your heart is fluttering or missing a beat.(3)

Your heartbeat is controlled by an intricate electrical system. You experience palpitations when the regular electrical rhythm is disrupted. These abnormal rhythms often occur due to:

  • Stress
  • Excessive caffeine
  • Certain medications
  • Exercise

Most of the time, it is not a cause for concern. There are a few ways that can help reduce this elevated heart rate after a workout.

Some underlying factors may also increase your susceptibility to exercise-related heart palpitation. These include:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Poor diet

Less frequently, these irregularities may be caused by underlying medical conditions such as arrhythmias.

How fast is too fast?

You can measure your pulse by:

  1. Placing your middle and index finger on your wrist or neck.
  2. Count the beats for 30 seconds and double the number to give you your heart rate.
  3. If you notice irregular rhythms, try counting for an entire minute.

For an average adult (age 18 and over) during vigorous physical activity, a heart rate of over 170-190 beats per minute is considered too high.(6)

For more specific numbers by age, subtract your age from 220 to get your suggested maximum heart rate.

After moderate intensity activities your heart rate should be about 50-70% of your maximum heart rate, while after intense workouts it should be around 70-85% of the maximum.

If your heart rate is frequently above this number, you may be experiencing tachycardia. The rapid heart rate of this condition is not generally a serious concern and can be treated, but make sure to visit your doctor.  

Heart palpitations after exercising

An elevated heart rate following a workout is a relatively benign occurrence that causes some discomfort yet poses little risk of serious medical conditions.

If you feel fluttering or a strong beat, it may indicate you are out of shape or have not worked out in a while.

Another common explanation for this is the intensity of the workout and the recovery time you have allowed yourself between work periods.

After completing an intense, anaerobic workout, your body has inadequate oxygen. To account for this deprived state, your pulse rate is high to try and get oxygen to where it is required.

Furthermore, after a workout, your body has accumulated high levels of adrenaline; this may trigger palpitations to occur at an increased rate or frequency.(1)

A prolonged period of high heart rate following a workout is known as excessive post-exercise oxygen consumption, in short ‘EPOC’. The elevated heart rate helps break down lactate, a waste product produced during intense exercise, and return the body to its normal resting state.(2)

EPOC indicates that your body is very metabolically active and is capable of burning more calories, which is nothing to worry about.(4) 

Should you be worried?

You should not worry about briefly abnormal heart rhythms. There is no definitive causal relationship between exercise and irregular heartbeats; abnormality may be experienced before a workout session too.(5)

If you do not experience any further symptoms, more often than not there is no need to worry either. However, if your heart palpitations or high pulse rate after a workout occur occasionally and are accompanied by chest pain, shortness of breath or extreme lightheadedness, it is best to visit your doctor. If you are experiencing an irregular heartbeat after previously suffering a heart attack, that is a cause for seeking immediate medical attention.

When you experience heart palpitations, observe your specific activity, take your pulse and note down any other physical symptoms you are feeling.

Should it stop you from exercising?

You may be wondering if it is safe to continue exercising if you are experiencing heart palpitations?

As previously mentioned, there is no direct link between exercise and aberrant heartbeats; these irregularities may be underpinned by other lifestyle behaviors such as stress, excessive caffeine, nicotine products, hormone changes and low blood sugar.

If you experience palpitations after a workout, consider what you had to eat and drink prior to your workout.

In light of this, experts have agreed that these irregularities in heart rhythm should not put you off your regular exercise regime – in fact, workouts are encouraged for optimal cardiovascular health.

Following a few tests, your physician may recommend a few exercises and physical activities that do not put strain on your heart. Ease back into your workouts and monitor your body’s response. You may gradually raise your activity level and increase your stamina over time.

How can you lower your resting heart rate after a workout?

While there is no specific treatment for heart palpitations and high heart rate, there are few ways to reduce your pulse rate after exercise.

1. Giving yourself more time to cool down will help control your heart rate and return to its normal resting state.

2. Stretching and muscle relaxation also aids your body’s ability to recover beyond its biological processes, by lengthening and calming muscle fibers that experienced strain during your workout. This subsequently reduces your heart rate too.

3. Consume a small, carb and protein-based meal around two hours before you exercise. This will provide your body with fuel, while giving yourself enough time to digest.

4. Drink electrolyte-dense drinks during your workout. While water may be sufficient for brief, moderate physical activity, if your workout lasts longer, consider having a sports drink or some coconut water to replenish electrolytes. This will keep you hydrated.

5. Do not overdo the coffee. Monitor your caffeine intake as excessive consumption may cause heart palpitations or elevated heart rate.


Heart palpitations can often occur due to stress, excessive intake of caffeine or exercise. Exercise-related heart palpitations can be a result of poor diet, smoking or high blood pressure. Although there is no direct association between abnormal heart rate and exercise, it can be wise to take note of your heart rate after workouts as a heart rate above the maximum can be indicative of an underlying medical condition.


Can overexertion cause palpitations?

Heart palpitations can be caused by a multitude of factors, one of them being excessive exercise. Overexertion when you have not worked out before, or in a while, may cause a spike in blood pressure and heart rate, inducing a potential heart attack. However, your high heart rate may be attributed to other factors such as hydration levels, high caffeine intake or lack of sleep.

Is it safe to exercise if you have heart palpitations?

An elevated heart rate or heart palpitations after a workout is a benign occurrence often caused by high, exercised-induced adrenaline levels. If this is a rare, brief incidence and you are not experiencing any other physical symptoms, there is usually no cause for concern. If however they happen frequently and are accompanied by shortness of breath, lightheadedness and chest pain, further evaluation is required and you should seek medical attention.


  1. Cornelissen, V.A., Verheyden, B., Aubert, A.E. and Fagard, R.H. (2010). “Effects of aerobic training intensity on resting, exercise and post-exercise blood pressure, heart rate and heart-rate variability”. J Hum Hypertens. 24(3): 175-82.
  2. Børsheim, E. and Bahr, R. (2003). “Effect of exercise intensity, duration and mode on post-exercise oxygen consumption”. Sports Med. 33(14): 1037-60.
  3. Clementy, N., Fourquet, A., Andre, C., Bisson, A., Pierre, B., Fauchier, L., Babuty, D., and Angoulvant, D. (2018). “Benefits of an early management of palpitations”. Medicine. 97(28).
  4. Vulcan, N. (2019). What happens to the Pulse After Exercise? [Online].
  5. Kienzle, M.G. (2018). Heart palpitations: Frequently asked questions. [Online].
  6. American Heart Association, 2021. Target Heart Rates Chart [Online]. Texas: American Heart Association.
This content is purely informational and isn’t medical guidance. It shouldn’t replace professional medical counsel. Always consult your physician regarding treatment risks and benefits. See our editorial standards for more details.

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Vicky Stogiannidou

University of Bath, BSc Biology
Vicky Stogiannidou has graduated from the University of Bath with a BSc Biology where she studied topics related to neuroscience, biochemistry and immunity. Vicky has developed a strong interest in health-related fields, one of these being nutrition. Vicky deeply believes that diet is instrumental for optimal health and is the culprit underlying many chronic diseases today. Beyond the keto diet, she has been researching heavy metals, which are found in many food sources and act as toxic catalysts for numerous diseases.

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