Target heart rate for exercise

Your target heart rate is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. It is the level at which your heart is beating with moderate to high intensity. To determine your maximum heart rate, take 220 and subtract your age.

Sustaining a workout at this pace improves cardiorespiratory endurance. So knowing your target heart rate helps you pace your workouts. Exercising at the right level of intensity will help you avoid burning out or wasting time with a workout that’s not vigorous enough to help you meet your goals.

Help your heart work stronger

Cardiovascular exercise (also called aerobic exercise) is especially effective in keeping your heart healthy and reaching your target heart rate. This specific type of exercise gets your heart beating fast for several minutes at a time.

Target heart rate is defined as the minimum number of heartbeats in a given amount of time in order to reach the level of exertion necessary for cardiovascular fitness, specific to a person’s age, gender, or physical fitness.

The following is an estimate given by the American Heart Association for target heart rate numbers for adults ages 45 to 70:

  • 45 years: 88 to 149 beats per minute
  • 50 years: 85 to 145 beats per minute
  • 55 years: 83 to 140 beats per minute
  • 60 years: 80 to 136 beats per minute
  • 65 years: 78 to 132 beats per minute
  • 70 years: 75 to 128 beats per minute

Measure your heart rate

To determine your heart rate, use your first two fingers to press lightly over the blood vessels on your inner wrist—the side by your thumb. Count your pulse for ten seconds and multiply this number by six.

If your heart rate is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, you have hit your target heart zone and are working at the right level of intensity.

Wearing a multifunctional fitness tracker such as the Fitbit, or Nike+ FuelBand SE, does the work for you. The device is worn like a bracelet or watch and measures your heart rate.

Exercising at the right level of intensity improves heart and respiratory endurance and helps keep your workout at a level that is vigorous enough to meet your health goals.

A final note

If you have a heart condition, be sure to discuss your target heart rate with your doctor prior to beginning an exercise program.

Last reviewed: 
May 2016

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