Do You Know Your Target Heart Rate?

female woman running in the street
When you exercise, your body speeds up, and so does your heart as it works to meet your increased energy needs. But how much speeding-up of your heart is safe when you exercise? You need the answer to this
question in order to maximize your exercise benefits while not overworking your heart.

How do you figure out your target heart rate? How long do I need to work out after reaching it? What is a target heart rate?

Target Heart Rate 101

Your target heart rate isn’t one rate but a range of rates (beats per minute, or bpm), expressed as percentages of your maximum heart rate, that are safe for you to reach during exercise. For most healthy people, the American Heart Association recommends an exercise target heart rate ranging from 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate, which is normally calculated as the number 220 minus your age.

What’s Your Target Heart Rate?

A normal resting heart rate for adults ranges from 60 to 100 beats a minute.

Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.

There is a basic formula that applies to the average population (and is actually pretty accurate). Let’s use a 20-year-old as an easy-to-calculate example:

The formula:

Calculate your maximum heart rate: 220 – age = MAX heart rate (example: 220 – 20 = 200)

Calculate 60%-80% of this max: 200 x .6 = 120 beats per min and 200 x .8 = 160 beats per min

Therefore the TARGET HEART RATE range for a 20-year old, working at 60-80% of their max heart rate is 120-160 beats per min.

How To Check Your Heart Rate

You can feel your heartbeats in several ways, such as by placing your fingers lightly but firmly over the inside of your wrist or on your neck just below the angle of your jaw. Be careful not to put too much pressure on the neck; this can slow the heart down and can be dangerous in people with blockages of blood vessels in the neck. You can also place your palm over your heart and count the number of beats that you feel.

Once you’ve found your pulse, count the number of beats for 6 seconds. Multiply that number by 10 and compare to your recommended range. Using this method will prevent you from stopping exercise for more than a few seconds. You can take your pulse after you’ve been exercising for at least 5 minutes.

For example, suppose you take your pulse and count 13 in 6 seconds. Multiply by 10 to get 130 beats per minute. Now you know you’re in the right range. If you notice you are lower than the minimum, increase your speed/incline/intensity and try to count again. If you notice you are very high, decrease your intensity in some way.

* If you have high blood pressure, you should not be working out in this THR range.