Karen Marcouiller

Personal Trainer and Health Coach

National Sports and Conditioning Association (NSCA)

American Council on Exercise (ACE)

Heart Rate for Exercise

February 25, 2020

Most of us know one of the purposes of cardio exercise is to raise the heart rate. Cardio exercises the heart and lungs and is the fat burning component of exercise.

 

I’m a firm believer that any movement is good.

 

But what is an optimal heart rate for fitness gains?

 

That depends on a factors such as age, resting heart rate, and your goals.

 

There are a couple of ways to determine your optimal heart rate.

 

The scientific method is to determine your heart rate reserve (HRR). To begin, subtract your age from 220. This gives you your estimated maximal heart rate. Subtract your resting heart rate from your estimated max heart rate to determine your HRR. (Calculate your resting heart rate by counting your heart beats per minute when you are at rest.) Multiply your HRR by both .65 and .85. Add your resting heart rate back to both of these numbers to determine the range of your target heart rate for exercise.

 

220 - age = estimated max heart rate

 

Estimated max HR - resting heart rate = HRR

 

HRR x .65 and .85 = percentages of HRR

 

Percentages of HRR + resting heart rate = target heart rate range

 

If you haven’t exercised for a while or you’re just beginning, aim for the lower end of this range and gradually build intensity. If you’re ready for a more vigorous workout, opt for the higher end of the zone. The higher you can get your heart rate, the more calories you burn.

 

Keep in mind that some medications, particularly some used to lower blood pressure, can affect your maximum heart rate. Talk with your doctor if you need to use a lower target heart rate zone because of any medications you take or medical conditions you have.

 

Another, less scientific method, is the talk test. For most general fitness goals, you want to be able to talk while you’re exercising. It should be uncomfortable and you’d rather not talk, but you can. If you can sing, up your pace. If you can’t talk, slow down.

 

This info is just a guide. Don’t get too hung up on the numbers. Even if the lower end seems too difficult, don’t sweat it.  Just focus on moving consistently – for the positive effects on your heart and lungs, weight control and the numerous other health benefits that come with activity.

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