Accurate heart rate monitoring is essential during exercise.
Your target heart rate is an indicator of workout intensity. Different intensity levels offer different benefits and help you to reach various fitness goals. For example, one of your primary reasons for exercising may be to improve your endurance. Knowledge of your target heart rate helps you stay within a certain range to accomplish this. This range is broken down into levels of intensity based on your age, fitness levels and goals.
The Beat Goes On
An exercise target heart rate range is calculated easiest by using an age-predicted maximum heart rate. Your MHR slows down with age, so your target pulse is adjusted after each birthday. Subtract your age from 220 to determine your MHR. The MHR is then multiplied by a percentage, depending on which exercise intensity level you want to achieve. An aerobic target heart rate range is typically between 50 percent and 90 percent of your MHR.
At the Beginning
If you are new to exercise, you should remain near the low end of the target range. This level also is known as a fat-burning aerobic level because your body uses fat as fuel when you are able to breathe in oxygen without gasping for breath. Fat is your endurance fuel which allows you to sustain your workout beyond one or two minutes to improve your aerobic endurance, heart function and burn calories. The American Council on Exercise recommends beginning at 50 percent of your MHR. If this feels too easy, increase your exercise intensity to 60 percent or 70 percent of your MHR. For example, if you are 40 years old, your MHR is 180 beats per minute, and your target rate as a beginner should be between 90 and 126 BPM.
In the Middle
After four to six weeks exercising at a lower level, increase your workout intensity to one that feels moderate. This intermediate pulse range is between 70 percent and 80 percent of your MHR. This intermediate aerobic zone challenges you, but not to the point of all-out effort. You should be able to maintain a conversation as you exercise at this level. You continue to enhance your cardiovascular system by challenging it to meet your workout needs. Your heart becomes more efficient as it circulates blood to the working muscles.
Ready to Advance
The higher end of the target heart rate range, between 80 percent and 90 percent of your MHR, is an advanced level for aerobic performance or competitive events. As your heart rate gets closer to 90 percent of your MHR, your body struggles to take in enough oxygen to keep up with your muscle's demands. When this occurs, your energy system switches to an anaerobic pathway and uses glucose as fuel. This is high-intensity exercise and should feel difficult. The higher pulse ranges are used sparingly such as during interval training. For example, you jog for three minutes and then sprint for one minute to improve your anaerobic endurance.
Just an Estimate
These heart rate ranges are estimates and are based on those without cardiovascular problems. If you take medications such as blood pressure medicine or beta-blockers that may adjust your pulse, speak with your physician to determine the best target heart rate range for you.