Have you ever wondered if you’re getting the most out of your workout? You’ve probably heard the term “target heart rate,” but do you have any idea what that is and what it means to you?
The more intense the workout, the faster your heart beats to pump more blood and oxygen to the muscles. But is an intense workout with a high heart rate always the best way to exercise? It depends.
Depending on your fitness level and fitness or weight loss goals, your target heart rate will fall within a certain range that is safe and effective, yet still achieves cardiovascular benefits. To determine what range is best for you, you will need to know your maximal heart rate and approximate fitness level.
You maximal heart rate is related to your age. As you age, your heart starts to beat a little slower. Simply subtract your age from 220. For example, if you are 40 years old, your maximum heart rate is 220-40=180 beats per minute (bpm). This formula is gender-neutral, so it is the same for both men and women.
Next, determine your target heart rate zone. The following guide will help determine your intensity level based on your level of fitness. Simply multiply your maximum heart rate by the percentages to calculate the low and high ends of your target heart rate zone.
Therefore, if you are 40 years old and at an average level of fitness, your target heart rate would be between 108 and 126 bpm:
Maximal heart rate (180) x 60% = 108 bpm
Maximal heart rate (180) x 70% = 126 bpm
Exercising within your target heart rate zone will help you make the most of your workout. If you fall below your target zone, your workout may not be intense enough to burn sufficient calories for weight loss or improve your cardiovascular fitness. If your heart rate is above your target zone, it means you’re working anaerobically (without oxygen) and inefficiently, especially for beginners.
The best and most accurate way to measure your heart rate while exercising is by wearing a heart rate monitor (which typically consists of a watch and strap you wear around your chest). Without a monitor, you can count your radial pulse at the base of the thumb of either hand, or your carotid pulse at the side of the neck.
Immediately after you finish exercising, isolate your pulse with two fingers and count the number of beats in a 10-second period then multiply by six. For example, if you count 20 beats in 10 seconds, then your heart rate would be 120 bpm.
The target heart rate zone is an estimate and a guideline for people without any health problems. Certain medications may alter your heart rate, and some people have exercise restrictions due to injury or health conditions. Each of these factors may affect your recommended target heart rate zone, so you should always check with your doctor first to determine what exercise intensity is safe for you.