What is a Healthy Exercise Heart Rate?

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What is a Healthy Exercise Heart Rate?

If you’re just starting an exercise program, it’s important to know how hard you’re working, not only so you don’t overdo it, but also to make sure you’re working at a high enough intensity to get cardiovascular benefits. That’s where the target heart rate comes in. It gives you an idea of how hard you’re working – and whether you need to pick up the speed or slow it down. What is a healthy exercise heart rate – and how do you know if you’re exercising hard enough?

Do Healthy Exercise Heart Rates Differ with Age?

Target heart rate varies with age. A healthy exercise heart rate for a thirty-year old athlete is not going to be the same as that of a sixty-year old sedentary person. The most accurate way to find out your healthy exercise heart rate is by getting an exercise stress test to determine your maximal heart rate. Once you know your maximal heart rate, a healthy exercise heart rate can be calculated. Unfortunately, not everyone has the resources to get an exercise stress test – nor do they need to in most cases.

An easier way to calculate a healthy exercise heart rate is to use the Karvonen method of calculating target heart rate range. To determine maximal heart rate, subtract your age from 220. Once you know your maximal heart rate, take a resting heart rate and subtract it from that value. This gives the heart rate reserve. For example, a fifty year old person would have a maximal heart rate of 170 (220 – 50). If they have a resting pulse of 60, their heart rate reserve would be 110. (170 – 60). Now, calculate 60% and 80% of the heart rate reserve. In this example it would be 66 (110 x .60) and 88 (110 x .80). Now, add each value to the resting heart rate to get a healthy exercise heart rate range. For this hypothetical illustration, it would be 126 (60 + 66) and 148 (60 + 88). So, the goal would be to stay between 126 and 148 beats per minute.

How Knowing Healthy Exercise Heart Rate Helps

Once you’ve calculated your healthy exercise heart rate range, stay within this range to get cardiovascular benefits. To see how well you’re doing, wear a heart rate monitor, found at most sporting goods stores, or take your heart rate by placing your hand on your carotid artery in the neck or radial artery in the wrist and counting for ten seconds. Multiply the number by six. This gives you your exercise heart rate.

Don’t Overdo It in the Beginning

Knowing your healthy exercise heart rate target shows you how hard you need to work to get cardiovascular benefits, but don’t aim for that in the beginning. It’s best to start out slowly at first and build up to more intense exercise as you increase your endurance. You may want to stay below your target heart rate range in the first few sessions, and then aim for the lower end of your target heart rate range until you become more fit.

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What is Healthy Exercise Heart Rate: The Bottom Line?

Knowing your healthy exercise heart rate range tells you how hard you need to work – and it’s simple to calculate. But be sure to talk to your doctor before starting any exercise program, especially if you’re over forty or have other medical problems.

References

Exercise Physiology. Theory and Application to Fitness and Performance. Seventh edition. 2009.

Health Fitness Instructor’s Handbook. Fifth Edition. 2007.

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