Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate is the rate at which your heart beats when you exercise “aerobically” – that is when you are physically active to the point where you burn fat. Any exercise that works your large muscle groups and gets your heart pumping between 50-85 percent of capacity for a sustained period of time is considered to be “aerobic” or “cardio.”

Jogging, brisk walking, hiking uphill, swimming, bicycling and rowing are some of the better known aerobic exercises you can do, but there are many other options.

The Rate Your Heart Beats
When You Start Burning Fat

One of the most effective methods to calculate the target heart rate for aerobic (cardio) exercise is the Karvonen Heart Rate Formula because it factors in your resting heart rate (RHR), which is a good indicator of your state of fitness.

1. You can determine your RHR as follows: Prior to getting out of bed in the morning, count your pulse on your wrist (radial pulse) or on the side of your neck (carotid pulse). Count the number of beats, starting with zero, for one full minute. For accuracy, take your resting heart rate three mornings in a row and average the heart rates together.

2. Then determine the intensity level at which you should exercise: As a general rule, you should level off at 50% to 85% of your heart rate reserve. Your degree of fitness will show where you fall within this range. If you are new to aerobic exercising or have been advised to limit your exercise intensity by your doctor, you may want to start with a lower heart rate range (about 50% to 60%). If you are an intermediate exerciser, try to stay within the range of 60% to 70%. Physically very fit individuals and athletes can work within the range of 75% to 85%.

The Karvonen Heart Rate Formula

220 – age = maximum heart rate
Max heart rate – resting heart rate x intensity + resting heart rate = training heart rate

For example: Julie is 40 years old, has a resting heart rate of 65 beats per minute (bpm), and she’s an intermediate exerciser (her intensity level will be 60% to 70%). Julie’s training heart rate zone will be 134 to 146 bpm:

Julie’s minimum training heart rate:
220 – 40 = 180
180 – 65 (resting heart rate) = 115
115 x .60 (minimum intensity) + 65 (resting heart rate) = 134 bpm

Julie’s maximum training heart rate:
220 – 40 = 180
180 – 65 (resting heart rate) = 115
115 x .70 (maximum intensity) + 65 (resting heart rate) = 146 bpm

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