When you work out, it’s good to know your target heart rate—the heart rate range where you’ll maximize your workout benefits. Here are two basic ways to find your target heart rate.
The first way is to take the number 220 and subtract your age, then multiply that number by the percentage of your maximal heart rate you wish to train at—typically 50 to 85 percent as your target heart rate, depending on your fitness range and fitness goals. Tip: When it comes to your training target heart rate, it’s better to start out with lower intensity (50 to 60 percent) and see how your body responds before bumping it up to a higher intensity (up to 85 percent).
For example, a fit 36-year-old would take 220 – 36 and get a maximal heart rate of 184. Then, if the desired target heart rate is 75 percent of the maximum, multiply 184 by .75 (for 75 percent), and that ends up being 138 beats per minute. This is an easy way to calculate your target heart rate, but it doesn’t take individual fitness level differences into account.
This next method uses your maximal heart rate and your resting heart rate to find your target heart rate. First, find your resting heart rate by counting the number of times your heart beats per minute while you’re at rest. You can check it in the morning after a good night’s sleep and before getting out of bed. The average resting heart rate is 60 to 80 beats per minute, but it can be lower for people who are physically fit, and may rise with age.
After finding your resting heart rate, subtract your age by 220 to get your maximal heart rate. Let’s use the age 36 again. You’ll get 184, but then subtract your resting heart rate—let’s say 45 beats per minute for a fit individual—to get your heart rate reserve, which would be 139. Then to train at 75 percent, multiply the heart rate reserve (139) by .75, which is about 104. Now add back in your resting heart rate (45), and that results in about 149 beats per minute.
You can see with the first formula that the target heart rate at 75 percent is 138 beats per minute, while the other formula comes in at about 149 beats per minute.
Monitoring your heart rate today is simple—even when you’re not using cardio equipment at the gym that calculates it for you. Many digital heart rate monitors are available in watch or arm-band form, and there are even handy smartphone apps to monitor your beats per minute!
The bottom line is to be sure to target your target heart rate so that you can get the most from your workout—to fit your age, your fitness level and your fitness goals.
In order to avoid risk of injury, please seek advice directly from your physician, especially if you have existing medical issues, before beginning any exercise or nutritional program. Also, be sure to stretch after exercise to avoid muscle and joint tightness.