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Target Heart Rate

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Do you know your target heart rate and how knowing it can help you? During periods of increased heart rate such as when you exercise it is important to monitor your heart to prevent it from over working, yet work it hard enough to stay in shape. If your heart rate is too high during exercise you will quickly tire and if it is too low you are not going to get the maximum results from your efforts.


How to Determine Your Heart Rate

Your heart rate is the number of times per minute that it beats. To measure your heart rate, place two fingers on the inside of your left wrist where you can feel the pulse beating. Count the number of beats you feel for a 15 second interval. Take that number and multiply by 4 to get the number of beats per minute.


Resting Heart Rate

Your pulse goes up and down all the time depending on what you are doing. To find your Resting Heart Rate (RHR), which is usually the lowest rate it beats at, completely rest for 20 minutes with no movement (this includes talking) before checking your pulse. Another option is to take a pulse reading for one full minute first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. You should always wait at least a half hour after eating, smoking or drinking caffeine before checking your heart rate for a more accurate reading. Dehydration, heat and humidity and altitude are all factors that will increase heart rate. Some medications for high blood pressure lower the heart rate. If you are taking blood pressure meds be sure to check with your doctor to determine if you should be using a lower target rate.


Maximum Heart Rate

Now your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is usually the fastest your heart beats. The heart is a muscle so the more you work it the larger and more efficient it becomes. To determine your MHR simply subtract your age from 220. E.g. If you are 40 years of age your maximum heart rate will be about 180. Age is another factor that affects your heart rates. The average maximum heart rate for a twenty year old is 200 beats per minute, for a fifty year old it’s 170 beats per minute and the average seventy year old heart is beating at 150 beats per minute.


How to Calculate Target Heart Rate

The level of heart beat that gives you the maximum benefit during a work out is your Target Heart Rate (THR). Your Target Heart Rate is usually 60 – 80% of your maximum heart rate. In other words it is how fast you want your heart beating while you are doing aerobic, cardio or vigorous exercise. Pacing yourself properly is a very important component of your exercise regime. When commencing an exercise program aim for the lowest end of your THR (60% of your MHR) for the first few weeks. Slowly build up to a higher target rate (75% MHR) and after about six months you will be able to work out at 85% of your MHR, although it is not necessary to exercise that hard to stay in shape.


For more information on your Target Heart Rate refer to the American Heart Association website, which has a calculator to help you determine what range your heart should be operating at when at rest or working out so you will know what the optimum target heart rate is specifically for you.