Heart rate is widely accepted as a good method for measuring intensity during running, swimming, cycling and other aerobic activities. Exercise that doesn’t raise your heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for 20 minutes won’t contribute significantly to cardiovascular fitness.
Target Heart Rate
The heart rate you should maintain is called your target heart rate. There are several ways of arriving at this figure. One of the simplest is:
Target Heart Rate = (220 – age) x 50% (lower limit)
Target Heart Rate = (220 – age) x 75% (upper limit)
(220 – age) is actually an estimate of your maximum heart rate. In other words, your target heart rate during exercise should be about 50 percent to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Calculate both the lower and upper limit to find your target heart rate zone. Your target heart rate falls within this zone. When your heart rate reaches a value within this zone during exercise, it means you have achieved a level of activity that contributes to your cardiovascular fitness. Note: In some circumstances it may not be harmful to exceed the upper limit of this zone, but it may contribute to shorter workouts (due to fatigue), increased chance of injury and/or muscle soreness. If you’re between the ages of 20 to 70 years old and you’d rather not do the math, click here to use this basic target heart rate calculatorSome methods for figuring the target rate take individual differences into consideration. Here is one of them.

1. Subtract your age from 220 to find Maximum Heart Rate.
2. Subtract resting heart rate (see below) from Maximum Heart Rate to determine Heart Rate Reserve.
3. Take 70 percent of Heart Rate Reserve to determine Heart Rate Increase.
4. Add Heart Rate Increase to Resting Heart Rate to find Target Heart Rate. Resting Heart Rate Find out your resting heart rate by taking your pulse after sitting quietly for five minutes. Count your pulse for 10 seconds, and multiply by six to get the per-minute rate. Or use our heart rate per minute calculator.

Exercise Heart Rate

When checking heart rate during a workout, take your pulse within five seconds after interrupting exercise because it starts to go down once you stop moving. Count your pulse for 10 seconds, and multiply by six to get the per-minute rate.

The text presented on these pages is provided for your information only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice. It may not represent your true individual medical situation, and does not take into account any possible arrhythmias or irregularities in your heart rate that may affect your heart rate per minute. It also cannot compensate for any inaccuracies in the pulse count you provide. Be sure to consult your physician before undertaking any new exercise regimen. Do not use this information to achieve a target heart rate that brings you discomfort or puts you at risk in any way. If you experience chest pains, shortness of breath, or any other kind of significant discomfort during exercise, stop exercising immediately and call your doctor. Consult your personal physician if you have any questions or concerns about exercise, fitness, or diet.

This tool was reviewed June 2007, by Tanise I. Edwards, MD, FAAEM, Medical Consultant, Optum.

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