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What's Your Target Heart Rate?

The goal of aerobic exercise is to raise your heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for 20 minutes. When you exercise, your heart beats faster to meet the increased demand for more blood and oxygen. The more intense the activity, the faster your heart will beat. Therefore, keeping an eye on your heart rate during your workout can be an excellent way to monitor exercise intensity.

Figuring out your target heart rate—the optimal rate your heart should beat during aerobic exercise—is a simple, two-step process. First, calculate your maximal heart rate. Then, using that number, you can determine your target heart rate zone.

Maximal Heart Rate: This number is related to your age, since as you grow older, your heart naturally beats a little more slowly. To estimate your maximal heart rate, simply subtract your age from the number 220.

Target Heart-Rate Zone: This is the number of beats per minute (bpm) at which your heart should be beating during aerobic exercise. For most healthy individuals, this range is 50 to 80 percent of your maximal heart rate. So, if your maximal heart rate is 180 bpm, the low end of the range (50 percent) would be 90 bpm, and the high end of the range (80 percent) would be 144 bpm.

Once you’ve determined your target heart-rate zone, you need to know how to put that information to good use. These numbers serve as an indicator of how hard you should be exercising. If you are just beginning an aerobic program, you should aim for the low end of the zone and pick up the intensity as you become more comfortable with your workout. Keep in mind that the target heart rate zone is recommended for individuals without any health problems. Additionally, if you are taking medications that alter your heart rate, consult your doctor before starting an aerobic program.
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