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Know Your Heart Rate Zones

February is Hearth Healthy Month, so here are some facts about heart rate training. You’ve probably seen the charts for finding your target heart rate either online or on cardio machines. Unfortunately, most charts are oversimplified and don’t take into account your fitness level. With some fairly simple math, you can figure out the right zones for you. Here’s how:

You just need two things:

  1. A calculator and
  2. To know your resting heart rate (which is your pulse before getting out of bed in the morning). If you use an activity tracker you probably already know this.

First: Calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR) with this formula:

220 – your age = maximum heart rate (MHR)

Second: Calculate your heart rate reserve by subtracting your resting heart rate from your max heart rate (MHR above):

MHR – resting heart rate = HRR (heart rate reserve)

Then, simply multiply your HRR by your target zones … and add your resting heart rate number back in.

(HRR x target zone percentage) + resting heart rate = target heart rate

The recommended target heart rates are:

  • Moderate intensity: 50% to 70%
  • Vigorous intensity: 70% to about 85%

So … let’s say you are 40 years old and your resting heart rate is 65. Here is how you’d calculate your zones:

220 – 40 (age) = 180 (or, MHR)

180 – 65 (resting heart rate) = 115 (HRR)

For moderate intensity (50% to 70%):

(115 x .50) + 65 = 122

(115 x .70) + 65 = 145

For vigorous intensity (70% to 85%)

(115 x .70) + 65 = 145

(115 x .85) + 65 = 163

Some meds (like certain blood pressure drugs) can interfere with your heart rate, so it’s a good idea to talk to your doctor before kicking up your intensity, especially if you have any heart disease risk factors, or are over 45 (for men) or 55 (for women).