Understanding Your Target Heart Rate: The Ultimate Guide!

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 The human body is a complex system. We engage in fitness activities to improve its efficiency. 

All this happens both inside and outside of the body. Visible results take time. Fortunately, the heart rate is a useful indicator of what is going on inside. 

The heart beats as fast as the body needs crucial resources like oxygen and glucose to sustain elevated physical activity.

After decades of studies on this subject, we may have better news, target heart rate!

This is the heart rate where the most benefits of exercising can be realized.

It’s the area you want to be when working out. We will discuss the target heart rate from several perspectives. 

Understanding this metric allows you to realize results fastest!

Let’s dive in.

We will begin from the baseline,

The resting target heart rate

The resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are not participating in any activity. 

For example when watching your favorite TV series. The American Heart Association states that the healthy resting heart rate for a healthy adult should be between 60-100 beats per minute.

 The disparity in this range is attributed to the following factors:

  • Age
  • Weight
  • Nutrition
  • Level of hydration
  • Body temperature
  • Emotions and anxiety

And much more.

Seasoned athletes can achieve as low as 40 beats per minute resting heart rate. 

This is what beginners should aim for. It may not be achievable due to many circumstances. However, do shoot for that. 

This is the primary point of your heart rate. Let’s now look into other possible regions it may fall:

Heart rate zones

The heart is an organ whose activity is dynamic. The number of beats per minute is the unanimous metric to quantify how fast your heartbeats. 

Along with supplying nutrients, antibodies, and excreting metabolic wastes, the heart also delivers oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body. This supply is directly proportional to demand. 

Heart rate is lowest at periods of no activity and highest at periods of vigorous activity. Since there are multiple places at which your heart rate may be at any given time, we use maximum heart rate as a reference.

This is the fastest your heart can beat in a minute. It’s dependent on several factors such as weight, medical and fitness conditions, etc. 

However, age seems to be the most authoritative determinant of maximum heart rate.

We calculate MHR by subtracting a person’s age from 220. For example, a 20-year-old’s MHR would be:

220-20=200beats per minute.

Now that you understand the baseline, the following are the five related heart rate zones based on MHR:

  • Zone 1(50-60)% of the maximum heart rate

This is a low-intensity training zone. Your heart rate is about half the maximum. It feels close to the resting heart rate. Breathing is relatively normal. 

Whatever light activity you are participating in can be sustained for a long period. To train at this rate, you need to pick an activity that grants you easy control over your heart rate.

  • Zone 2 (60-70)% of the maximum heart rate

This is a relatively low-intensity training zone. Your heart rate is slightly elevated. It feels manageable. Breathing is slightly elevated but still under control. 

All training activities such as light cycling or jogging can be sustained for a long time. 

It’s believed that the most fat is burned in this zone. This should be a call for action if you wish to lose weight. 

You can also rip the most benefits in this zone if you are shooting for improving your endurance. As the oxygen demand begins to climb, your body is set to lengthen its capillary network. 

Training in this zone allows you to climb the fitness curve faster.

  • Zone 3(70-80)% of the maximum heart rate

Things begin to get heated up in this zone. Your heart rate feels faster than usual. 

You start getting a taste of a little strain. This is because of unfulfilled oxygen demands. As you continue at this pace, your muscles begin building up lactic acid.

 You may experience a little stitch in the stomach if you are a newbie trainer. Moderate swimming, halfway through, would give a rough idea of how this feels.

  • Zone 4(80-90)% of the maximum heart rate

This is hard! Things begin getting tough here. Although you will still be at the aerobic zone, the oxygen demands peaks. Breathing is fast and with little control over. 

If you are looking into improving your speed and endurance, this is where you want to be. Some weeks in, your body is forced to devise adaptive strategies for enduring this performance. 

This includes utilizing carbohydrates more efficiently as the primary source of energy. This comes as a necessity as the body requires quick energy. 

Carbohydrates are much easier to break down than fats. Lactic acid management is also improved.

  • Zone 5(90-100)% of the maximum heart rate

First off, this is for experienced athletes and should be approached with caution. In this zone, you are working your body the hardest you possibly can. 

This comes with a huge demand for resources from the blood. The body must be good at delivering oxygen and energy to muscles, fast! The same is expected with the rate of removing wastes such as carbon dioxide and lactic acid from the muscle tissue.

 This is a dangerous zone for beginner-intermediate trainers as their bodies might get into shock from unsustainable demands. Depending on your age. We have given a numerical range of your target heart rate in the subsequent section.

Target heart rate chart 

The following is a breakdown of the recommended 50-85% target heart rate based on age. We also give a detailed target heart rate for the five zones. 

The last two zones are for veteran athletes. However, with time, you can reach these areas. The values are age-based: 

AGE 

Maximum Heart Rate 

(BPM)

TARGET HEART RATE RANGE

(50-85)% MHR 

(BPM)

ZONE 1

(50-60)% MHR

(BPM)

ZONE 2

(60-70)% MHR

(BPM)

ZONE 3

(70-80)% MHR

(BPM)

ZONE 4

(80-90)% MHR

(BPM)

ZONE 5

(90-100)% MHR

(BPM)

18202101-172101-122122-142142-162162-182182-202
20200100-170100-120120-140140-160160-180180-200
2519598-16698-117117-137137-156156-176176-195
3019095-16295-114114-133133-152152-171171-190
3518593-15893-111111-130130-148148-167167-185
4018090-15390-108108-126126-144144-162162-180
4517588-14988-105105-123123-140140-158158-175
5017095-14595-102102-119119-136136-153153-170
5516583-14183-9999-116116-132132-149149-165
6016080-13680-9696-112112-128128-144144-160
6515578-13278-9393-109109-124124-140140-155
7015075-12875-9090-105105-120120-135135-150
8014070-11970-8484-98102-112112-126126-140

It’s possible that your exact age is not captured above. You need not worry as you can also easily compute these values. Let’s find out how.

Target heart rate calculator

You may not like all the boring math of calculating your target heart rate. In that case, we recommend this target heart rate calculator. You just need to enter simple details like your age and level of exercise. 

The software can also provide valuable related information. Such include body fat, body mass index, caloric needs, Basal metabolic rate, ideal weight, and running pace.

How to measure the target heart rate

Based on our discussion, I am certain that you can find out your target heart rate range. So now we need to know exactly how to get those numbers from your body. 

The following are the two MAIN methods of measuring your target heart rate:

MANUALLY

This is a DIY method of measuring your heart rate. When performed properly, it may be more accurate than low-end tracking devices. 

To find your target heart rate, you may need to pause for a few seconds/minutes during training to count beats. You need to find a pulse first. 

A simple count for a minute should give you the number of beats per minute. If you do it for 15 seconds, multiply the figure by 4 to get your beats/minute.

Likewise, if you do it for 30 seconds, multiply the number by 2. Based on the location of the pulse, the following are three methods of measuring your target heart rate:

1. Pedal pulse method

Find a pulse on the top of your foot. To do this, use your middle and index fingers to feel a pulse along the bone that protrudes along with the highest point of your foot. 

Once you have it, count the beats for 15/30/60 seconds.

2. Brachial pulse

This is a method with which you count your pulse from the inner arm area between the crook and elbow area. 

You may need to push a little harder next to your armpit. 1 finger would suffice. 

Count the number of pulses for 15/30/60 seconds. 

Calculate your beats per minute using those values.

3. Radial pulse

Locate a pulse on the outer side of your wrist with your palms facing up. 

This is the location of the radial pulse. To find the vessel, gently place the pointer and index fingers of your opposite wrists on the other arm. 

Feel for a pulse and count the number of beats for 15/30/60 minutes.

 ELECTRONICALLY

These are techniques that use sensors to measure your heart rate. These sensors have acceptable accuracy.

 They are also much more convenient in contrast with the manual method.

 The following are the four main types of devices to measure your target heart rate:

  1. Smartwatch
  2. Running watch
  3. Wrist heart rate monitor
  4. Chest strap heart rate monitor

 To get the best deal off of your next heart rate tracker, consider your context of usage and budget. 

A great heart rate sensor should be waterproof, accurate, have a long-lasting battery, and lightweight. Smartphone connectivity is also a must-have in 2020. 

This allows you to keep an account of your progress over time. You may easily spot areas you need to improve. 

All this need not break the bank. There are several high quality, affordable heart rate monitors available online. 

Do check out what previous buyers say about the specific model you are eyeing. This will give you a rough idea of what to expect from the actual product.

How to Find Your Target Heart Rate

How to check heart rate

It takes a great deal of time and effort to show up for training. The last thing you want is to get minimal results after hours, maybe months of exercise. 

Understanding your target heart rate is crucial if you are to maximize every move you make during your session. Several factors come into play when gauging your heart rate. These include your level of fitness, height, medical condition, and weight. 

Trying to give an accurate account of the quantifiable effect of these variables is an outreach. As such, age is used as the basis of our math. So here is how it goes. You need to calculate your maximum heart rate. 

This is found by subtracting your age from 220.

Next, find your target heart rate as a percentage of the maximum heart rate. This is anything from 50-85% of your MHR.

For example, a 30-year-old’s maximum heart rate is 220-30=190 beats per minute.

The target heart rate is 50%*190-85%*190=95-162 beats per minute.

Keep in mind that these figures may not be accurate as other factors, mentioned earlier, may also alter the ideal range.

As a rule of thumb, start working out on the lower side of your target heart rate. Build a healthy, safe momentum as you increase your target heart rate. 

This takes time, thus, a little patience can go a long way.

Heart Rate Tips

1. Tracking

Invest in a high-quality heart rate monitoring device. This includes a smartwatch or heart rate monitor.

Smartwatches come in various forms and capabilities.

The majority of medium-high end smartwatches have a heart rate sensor built-in. They are usually optical.

This means that they beam light onto the blood vessels and measure how fast it’s reflected. They are located on the underside of these watches. 

As such, you can easily check if it’s present. Most brands will write this as one of the main features in the packaging. Full-blown smartwatches have relatively inaccurate heart rate sensors due to the inclusion of many features.

Dedicated sports/running watches like the Garmin forerunner series is highly recommended for fidelity.

Even more accurate are dedicated heart rate monitors. They are built specifically to measure heart rates. 

That is why they are worn in specific parts of the body where pulses are the most conspicuous. They include wrist or chest strap heart rate monitors.

Having one of these devices will save you the hustle of having to halt midway to measure your heart rate manually.

Later iterations of these gadgets have great smartphone/PC connectivity. This means that they can beam the heart rate data to more capable processing apps.

 These include fitness apps such as MyFitnessPal. A better sense of how you fared is displayed in easy to interpret infographics.

2. Obsession

Avoid being too overly cautious about your target heart rate numbers. You understand that these are only numbers. 

They may not be an accurate reflection of your real effort. Such tendencies of focusing too much on what figures you are getting create a mental distraction that severely reduces your performance.

Take the readings after some time. Use the rest of the energy to push your limits. You might be surprised to find out just how well you have improved after dedicating some time to your regimen.

For the first few days of your training journey, it’s not your business to calculate target heart rate. 

Focus on improving your capacity and then, later, as you get used to working out, check your numbers. 

You may also visit your physiologist to advise you on the best zone to work out from. This is because they can factor in all the variables in your context. 

This way you will find a safe and manageable area to operate from. 

This is especially useful for people with underlying medical conditions or those that are currently battling terminal illnesses such as asthma and high blood pressure.

3. Switch things up

Different target heart rate zones have varying benefits. For instance, 60-70% MHR is great for burning fat while 70-80% MHR is great for endurance training. 

You may have a personal preference for a certain area and maybe even get used to it. However, soon, your body gets used to it. This is where plateauing begins. 

The lungs learn how to breathe faster. The number of capillaries and red blood cells increases to deliver more oxygen. Muscles master how to make those moves efficiently. When this happens, fitness growth slows down. 

This means that you need to expose your body to a new routine. By challenging your body, your fitness improves.

Curating a workout plan that allows you to operate at different heart rates is the way to go. Coordination, speed, and endurance are some of the immediate benefits of this tactic.

4. Be safe

Devices can throw around all kinds of numbers. That said, you are the only one who knows exactly how you are feeling. This means that you must pay close attention to your vitals as you exercise. 

These include heart rate, breathing, temperatures, and exhaustion. If you feel that your heart rate is too low, you may want to go a little harder.

On the contrary, if you feel that you’re exerting too much, you may want to slow down.

As a general wellness measure, it’s important to get a thorough medical checkup regularly. Pending time bombs can be detonated early enough.

Bottom Line

Making the most out of the internet can help improve the impact of your training

Target heart rate is one such piece of information available, as in this article. Keep track of your heart rate to ensure that you remain the target zone. 

This will prove of great utility in due time. Therefore, focus more on training and less on tracking your progress. 

Creating a strict, detailed, dynamic plan will help you remain consistent with your goals.

Sweat on!

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