How to Find Your Target Heart Rate Zone

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Whether you are an aspiring athlete or just someone looking to improve your health, you have probably heard about target heart rate zone training. This article takes a look at what target heart rate zone training is, outlines methods of how to find your target heart rate, and explains why it is an important consideration when starting or continuing a healthy exercise routine.

Target Heart Rate Zone

Your target heart rate zone is a range of heart beats per minute that is ideal for you to maintain during your chosen exercise activities. This is important so you work yourself hard enough to gain the benefits of the exercise without putting undue stress on your heart. Cardiologist and Mayo Clinic College of Medicine professor Gerald Fletcher, M.D. says, “We don’t want people to over-exercise, and the other extreme is not getting enough exercise.” There is such a thing as too much of a good thing.

Finding Your Target Heart Rate Zone

Here are a couple methods to determine your target heart rate zone: the traditional method, and the Karvonen method. The traditional way was to take the number 220, then subtract your age. This number is your maximum heart rate. The recommended range of intensity is between 50 and 85 per cent of your maximum. Take a look at the following example:

Let’s say you are 35 years old. You subtract 35 from 220 giving you 185. So, your maximum heart rate is 185 beats per minute, or BPM.

Now you need to find the upper and lower limits, the boundaries, of where you should be. The lower end of intensity is 50 per cent of your maximum. Simply multiply 185 times .50 giving you 92.5. Your lower limit is about 93 BPM.

The upper limit is calculated in the same manner. Multiply 185 times .85 giving you 157.25. Your upper limit is about 157 BPM.

As you can see, based on the traditional formula, if you are 35 years old, your exercise should strain you enough to put your heart rate anywhere from 93 to 157 BPM.

How to find your target heart rate zone


The Karvonen method, according to the Purdue North Central website, is a more accurate method to determine your target heart rate. The one main difference is the inclusion of your resting heart rate. This your heart rate when you are completely at rest.

The basic idea of this method is to find your maximum heart rate using the 220 minus age formula. Then take that number and subtract your resting heart rate. This number is your heart rate reserve.

Karvonen Target Heart Rate Chart


Using the Karvonen method, the upper and lower limits are 60 and 80 per cent of your heart rate reserve.

Finding the Exercise That Fits Your Target Heart Rate Zone

Target heart rate zone training is more focused on intensity of the exercise than it is on any particular exercise. Take walking or running, for example. If you are particularly unfit, then walking may bring your heart rate to within your ideal range. Conversely, if walking is not intense enough, you may need to increase your speed or intensity to gain the full benefits of the exercise.

Losing Weight

If you are looking to lose weight, here are some tips to help get you started. The basic idea of losing weight is simple: You must burn more calories than you consume. The harder you exercise the more calories you will burn.

There are disagreements about what percentage of your target heart rate is best for burning fat. The main thing to remember is your intensity. Higher intensity workouts may burn more calories, but you may not have the energy to do them for as long of a period.

According to the ChooseMyPlate website, 2 hours and 30 minutes of moderate intensity is needed just to maintain health and 5 hours or more of active time during the week is recommended for increased health benefits such as weight loss. It is important to note that 20 minutes of vigorous physical exercise is equal to 40 minutes of moderate intensity exercise on their scale.


Nevil Hunter is the head of Sales at Orbit Fitness, exercise equipment retailers in Perth, Western Australia. You can connect with Nevil on Google+ as well.