Health Advocate Blog

Use your target heart rate to maximize your workout

Think back to the last time you exercised. Did you work too hard or did you hardly work? Exercising at the correct intensity level can help you get the most out of your physical activity for health and weight loss benefits. A great way to gauge your exercise intensity is by understanding how hard your heart is beating during physical activity and how to reach your target heart rate. Keep reading to learn more!

Importance of reaching your target heart rate

You reap the most health benefits when you exercise in your target heart rate zone. Your target heart rate helps you find balance between exercising too hard and not exercising enough. If your heart rate is too high, you’re going too hard; 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! While any exercise is better than none at all, exercising below your target heart rate may not give you 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 your bad cholesterol (LDL) and blood pressure
  • Increase your good cholesterol (HDL)
  • Reduce stress and feel good

Follow these steps to determine your target heart rate:

  1. Calculate your maximum heart rate. 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.
  • Establish your exercise intensity level. Your target heart rate will depend on the exercise level for which you are striving.
    • If you want a moderate intensity workout, aim for 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
    • If you want a vigorous intensity workout, aim for 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • Calculate your target heart rate. For example, if you’re 40 years old and would like to perform moderate intensity exercise, you would calculate as follows:
  • Subtract your age from 220 to get your maximum heart rate. [220-40= 180].
  • Multiply that number by 0.5 [50%] to determine the lower end of your target heart rate for moderate intensity exercise. [180 x 0.5= 90]
  • Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.7 [70%] to determine the upper end of the target heart rate zone for vigorous intensity exercise. [180 x 0.7= 126]
  • In this example, your target heart rate for moderate intensity exercise is 90-126 beats per minute

Always exercise with caution. Know your limits based on your personal health, age and physical condition. When in doubt, talk to your doctor to help determine safe levels of exercise! For more information, refer to the American Heart Association.