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Get Your Heart Rate on Target

We all know working out raises our heart rate. But how do you know if you’re doing too much or not enough? Your target heart rate is the bull’s eye you want to hit.

Check with your healthcare provider before starting any exercise program.

Resting Heart Rate

Before you can calculate and monitor your target heart rate, you need to know your resting heart rate. This is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. It’s best to check this in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep, but before you get out of bed. According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate for children 10 years and older and adults is 60–100 beats per minute. For well-trained athletes, it’s 40–60 beats per minute.

Target Heart Rate

Once you know your resting heart rate, you can determine your target training heart rate. When you’re exercising, periodically:

  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side
  • Use the tips of your first two fingers (not thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist
  • Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. You want to stay between 50% and 85% of your maximum heart rate—this is your target heart rate

Know Your Numbers

You can use this table to find the target heart rates for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age. These figures are averages so use them as general guidelines.

Age Target Heart Rate Zone 50-85% Average Maximum Heart Rate at 100%
20 years 100–170 beats per minute 200 beats per minute
30 years 95–162 beats per minute 190 beats per minute
35 years 93–157 beats per minute 185 beats per minute
40 years 90–153 beats per minute 180 beats per minute
45 years 88–149 beats per minute 175 beats per minute
50 years 85–145 beats per minute 170 beats per minute
55 years 83–140 beats per minute 165 beats per minute
60 years 80–136 beats per minute 160 beats per minute
65 years 78–132 beats per minute 155 beats per minute
70 years 75–128 beats per minute 150 beats per minute

Note: Some high blood pressure medications can lower the maximum heart rate. If you’re taking this type of medication, talk to your healthcare provider to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.

Understanding Your Numbers

If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining so slow down. If it’s too low and the intensity feels light or moderate, you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder. During the first few weeks of working out, aim for the lower range of your target zone (50%) and gradually build up to the higher range (85%). After six months or more, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

Published on: February 11, 2016