Sometimes I work up a pant and feel my heart pounding and racing and if you would ask me to guess my heart rate I might guess that it was over 90% of my personal max. But I look at my heart rate monitors and it is hardly the case.

Other times I am jogging and I can hardly even notice my heart beating at all, and subjectively my level of cardiac exertion feels quite underwhelming. Naturally then if I was asked to guess I would think that it is perhaps in the 50-70% range of my personal max, yet biometrically it doesn’t seem to be the case and in fact my heart rate monitor reports over 90%.

So there is clearly the phenomenon of objective heart rate which doesn’t necessarily correspond to subjective perception of heart rate.

What objectively measurable variable then would correspond to subjective perception of cardiac exertion?

Tldr: what makes us feel overwhelmed by cardio activity?

  • No, I don’t consciously try to estimate my actual heart rate as a numerical rate of beats per minute. I just notice that it seems awfully/noticeably intense and fast and think to myself “wow this is intense and I feel really over exerted” as I feel my heart thumping. Perhaps I’m in the sauna and it just feels a bit overwhelming and unbearable like I have to get out. But then I’ll look at my monitor on those occasions and it will not be that especially high. Commented Apr 15, 2023 at 23:56
  • 2
    I'm not sure this is either a) answerable or b) on topic. It's a personally subjective observation.
    – JohnP
    Commented Apr 17, 2023 at 13:22

1 Answer 1


In the 1990 study, "Cardiodynamic determinants of heart perception" (translated from German), the authors begin the abstract by stating, "Subjective perception of one's heartbeat is augmented by psychological factors (stress, fear) as well as by physiological influences (e.g., physical work). It is still unclear on which cardiac or circulatory parameters the "signal" for cardiac perception is based." In the study "Heartbeat perception in depression", a moderately depressed group of people was less accurate in heartbeat perception than were both healthy volunteers and a more severely depressed group. In the 2010 study, "Accuracy of heartbeat perception is reflected in the amplitude of the heartbeat-evoked brain potential", the authors conclude that "the accuracy of heartbeat perception is reflected in the amplitude of the HEP", the HEP being the heart-evoked potential, the potential of a nerve signal from the heart to the brain. I have not read these papers.

  • No idea why this would have been downvoted. It is a very informative answer that clearly establishes that it is a topic that has been formally explored, yet without conclusive results. That is very helpful to anyone wondering about this question. Commented Apr 20, 2023 at 14:30

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