Heart Rates: Part I

I’m a firm believer that if you set your mind to a task, you can accomplish it; most times, the only thing holding you back is yourself. Personally, before going into anything – work, school, exercise– I like to be informed.

Without understanding how your body works, how can you expect to get a quality workout?

Before I post about calculating target heart rates, determining ideal target zones and using them to boost your workout efficiency, I thought I’d start with the basics, like terminology.

Maximum heart rate

Your maximum heart rate is just that: the absolute upper bound of what your heart can handle while exercising. Think of it this way: it’s the highest number of beats per minute your ticker can tick.

It’s important to note that your max heart rate is an all-out, 110% effort that could only conceivably last a few seconds (unless you’re an Olympian or highly trained athlete, in which case, it may last up to a few minutes). The bottom line: it’s not possible to exercise at this rate over a long period of time.

Here are some intriguing facts I pulled from Active.com about your maximum heart rate:

  • Max heart rate is a function of age – as your body gets older, the heart’s ability to push blood throughout your body declines
  • It is not a trainable attribute, meaning the more you work out does not correlate to a higher maximum heart rate. It simply means you can accomplish more at this level of intensity

Resting heart rate

Your resting heart rate is the number of beats per minute when your body is at complete rest, like when you get up in the morning. Unlike your maximum heart rate which is tied to your age, your resting heart rate is a good indication of your overall fitness level.

According to the Mayo Clinic, a normal resting heart rate for adults ranges anywhere from 60 to 100 beats per minute Dr. Laskowski elaborates saying, “Generally, a lower heart rate at rest implies more efficient heart function and better cardiovascular fitness. For example, a well-trained athlete might have a normal resting heart rate closer to 40 beats a minute.” So there you have it. If you’re Usain Bolt or Michael Phelps, your resting heart rate might be closer to the forties while for the rest of us, we’re probably more in the seventy to eighties.

Target heart rate

Your target heart rate is your optimal heart rate for maximizing performance during your workout. Your exercising goals will drive what your target heart rate should be (more on this next week!). If you’re looking to lose weight versus run a 5k faster, your target heart rate will be lower and vice versa.

Your target heart rate is a percentage, typically a range, based off your maximum heart rate. The best way to determine your target heart rate is to use those generic heart rate charts every gym has or you could google it.

Keep in mind, these are cookie cutter charts that approximate what one’s maximum and target heart rate should be. To get more accurate workout results, I’d recommend using a heart rate monitor. I’ll talk more about monitors in Part III of these posts.

I pulled this heart rate chart off the American Heart Association’s website just to show you want I’m talking about.

Heart Rate Target Zone 50-85% Avg. Maximum Heart Rate 100%
Age  Beats/minute Beats/minute
20 100–170 200
25 98–166 195
30 95–162 190
35 93–157 185
40 90–153 180
45 88–149 175
50 85–145 170
55 83–140 165
60 80–136 160
65 78–132 155
70 75–128 150

How to interpret this chart

As a 25 year old, my maximum heart rate is approximately 195 and my target heart rate zone is anywhere from 98-166 beats per minute on average. If I’m looking to lose weight, I should stick to exercising in the lower half of my target zone (roughly 98-132 beats per minute) while if I’m aiming to improve my overall level of fitness and build speed, I’d need to work out in the upper half of my target zone (roughly 133-166 beats per minute).

Join me next week as I talk about the methods for calculating your maximum and target heart rates and discuss the various heart rate zones!


Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s