Health Advocate Blog

Understanding Your Target Heart Rate

Think back to the last time you exercised. Did you work too hard? Did you hardly work? Exercising at the correct intensity can help you get the most out of your physical activity. A great way to gauge your exercise intensity is by seeing how hard your heart is beating during physical activity. From there you can determine whether you’re meeting your target heart rate.

Why is reaching your target heart rate important?

You reap the most health benefits and lessen the risks when you exercise in your target heart rate zone. Your target heart rate helps you find the balance between doing too much or not doing enough. Any exercise is better than none, but exercising below the 50 percent level may not give your heart an adequate workout.

When you reach your target heart rate, you’re more likely to…

  • Reduce your risk of heart disease, diabetes, high blood pressure, and stroke
  • Control your weight
  • Lower cholesterol and high blood pressure
  • Reduce stress

Before you learn how to reach your target heart rate, it’s important to figure out your resting heart rate and maximum heart rate. Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest. A good time to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. The best places to find your pulse are the wrist, inside of your elbow, side of your neck, and top of the foot.  To get the most accurate reading, put your finger over your pulse, in one of these areas, and count the number of beats in 60 seconds.

According to the National Institutes of Health, the average resting heart rate for children 10 years and older and adults (including seniors) is 60-100 beats per minute; for well-trained athletes it’s 40-60 beats per minute.

Your maximum heart rate is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity. To calculate your maximum heart rate, you should subtract your age from 220. This is the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute while you’re exercising.

Determining your target heart rate

Throughout your next workout, take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side. Use the tips of your first two fingers (pointer and middle finger) 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. In order to meet your target heart rate, you want to stay between 50%-85% of your maximum heart rate.

How does your heart rate match up with moderate-intensity exercise and vigorous-intensity exercise?

  • Moderate exercise intensity: 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate
  • Vigorous exercise intensity: 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate

Putting it all together
Say you’re 35 years old and you want to figure out your target heart rate for vigorous intensity exercise.

  • Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. [220-35= 185].
  • Multiply that number by 0.7 [70%] to determine the lower end of your target heart rate for vigorous intensity exercise. [185 x 0.7= 129.5]
  • Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.85 [85%] to determine the upper end of the target heart rate zone for vigorous intensity exercise. [185 x 0.85= 157.25]
  • Your target heart rate for vigorous intensity exercise is 130-157 beats per minute.

Why is it beneficial to know your numbers?
If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining; therefore, you may want to slow down. If your heart rate is too low, you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder to get the most out of your workout!

For Health Advocate Members
If you’re a Health Advocate member with access to our Wellness Coaching program, call your coach to learn more about your target heart rate!