Aerobic Heart Rate

How do I determine my target heart rate?

The general formula for the average person is 220 - age X 60% and X 90% of HRmax. For example, a 30 year old would calculate his target zone using the above formula: 220-30=190. 190x0.60=114 and 190x0.90=171. This individual would try to keep his heart rate between 114 (low end) and 171 (high end) beats per minute.

The Karvonen Formula calculates your heart rate reserve range. To calculate it, take your pulse for one minute on three successive mornings upon waking up. (We will be using the case of a 30 year old male whose resting pulse was 69,70 and 71 for an average of 70 over the 3 days.)

Calculate target heart rate by subtracting your age from 220


Subtract your average resting heart rate from target heart rate


The lower boundary of the percentage range is 50% of this plus your resting heart rate [(120 x 0.5) + 70 = 130]. The higher boundary is 85% plus your RHR [(120 x 0.85) + 70 =172]. Using the Karvonen Formula for percentage of heart rate reserve, this 30 year old man should be working between 130 and 172 BPM.

The above two formulas are only guidelines, as some people may be 30 beats above their predicted maximum heart rate. Again on the other end of the scale some people can be 20 beats below, and will find it impossible to reach their so-called target zone.

The best way, if you are interested, is to ask a qualified person who will monitor both you and your heart under exercise, and from this establish what your target zones should be.

It is important to note that the deviation in both the age specific formula and the Karvonen formula is due to the estimation of HRmax. If you have an actual HRmax from a graded exercise test, it will be more accurate.

Another important factor is that various equipment will generate different results, i.e. running and cycling.

The following page will help you if you don't have a heart rate monitor.

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