How to calculate your target heart rate

Target Heart RateYour target heart rate is meant to be your goal when exercising in order to ensure that you are working out effectively while not overdoing it. Target heart rates vary based on personal fitness level and may be different for each individual. To find out how to calculate and reach your target heart rate, continue reading.

Know your target heart rates

In order to calculate your target heart rate, you must first figure out your resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is the number of beats per minute your heart completes while you are at rest. The best time to check this rate is in the morning after a restful sleep before you get out of bed. The average resting heart rate for individuals over the age of ten (up to and including seniors) is approximately 60-100 beats per minute, as detailed by the National Institute of Health. In addition, the average target heart rate zones, as well as the average maximum heart rates, for those between the ages of 40 and 70 have been detailed in the chart below:

AgeTarget HR Zone 50-85%Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%
40 years90-153 beats per minute180 beats per minute
45 years88-149 beats per minute175 beats per minute
50 years85-145 beats per minute170 beats per minute
55 years83-140 beats per minute165 beats per minute
60 years80-136 beats per minute160 beats per minute
65 years78-132 beats per minute155 beats per minute
70 years75-128 beats per minute150 beats per minute

Understanding target heart rate zones


There are multiple heart rate zones that are detailed by the percentage of your maximum heart rate, and each can target a certain type of fitness.

Healthy heart zone: This zone describes where your heart rate should be during your warm up, which is approximately 50–60 percent of your maximum heart rate. This zone is perfect for those just beginning to workout, as well as for reducing blood pressure and cholesterol.

Fitness zone: This zone is more intense and burns more total calories than the previous. It occurs between 60 and 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Aerobic zone: This is between 70 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate and is most often reached during endurance training. It is meant to improve the cardiovascular and respiratory systems.

Anaerobic zone: Between 80 and 90 percent of your maximum heart rate, this zone is used for performance training and improves the cardiorespiratory system, which helps you to better fight fatigue.

Red line maximum: The highest zone, which between 90 and 100 percent of your maximum heart rate, and very little training utilizes this intensity. Only those in exceptional shape should train in this zone with the approval of their physician.

These zones are just guidelines to help you gauge the intensity of your exercise—the way you feel should also be taken into account, along with your heart rate. Moderate exercise intensity is characterized by quickened breathing that doesn’t leave you out of breath, light sweat after approximately ten minutes of exercise, and the ability to speak while exercising but not sing. In comparison, vigorous exercise intensity should feel more challenging and cause your breathing to be deeper and faster, sweat to start dripping after just a few minutes, and speaking to become difficult without pausing for breath.

How to calculate your target heart rate zone?

If you are looking to train according to your heart rate, you will need to calculate your target heart rate. This can be done by using an online calculator or computing the information yourself. If you are looking to determine your target heart rate for vigorous activity, start by subtracting your age from 220.

Heart Rate Maximum (HRmax) = (220 – Age) beats per minute

For example, if you are 60 years old, then your maximum heart rate will be 160. Next, calculate your resting heart rate by counting the beats per minute while at rest, preferably after waking but before getting out of bed. This number should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute for the average adult.

Subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate to calculate your heart rate reserve. If your resting heart rate is 70 and your maximum heart rate is 160, then your heart rate reserve will be 90. Multiply this number by 0.7 (or 70 percent) then add your heart rate reserve to find the lower end of your target heart rate zone, then by 0.8 (or 80 percent) and add the heart rate reserve to find the higher end of your target heart rate zone. For example, if your heart rate reserve is 90, then the lower end of the range should be 153 beats per minute, and the higher end should be 162 beats per minute.

Exercise physiologists and clinicians typically recommend keeping your heart rate at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Performing vigorous exercise makes the heart rate fluctuate above and below this range. By keeping your heart rate within this range, your exercise sessions will be more efficient.

To discover if you have reached your target heart rate while exercising, you should stop your activity for a moment, then take your pulse for 15 seconds. You can do so by placing your index and third fingers on your neck, beside your windpipe. Count the beats for 15 seconds then multiply this number by four to find your beats per minute.

Some tips to hit target heart rate

In order to achieve your target heart rate, interval training in which short spurts of maximum effort activity are interspersed throughout longer and less strenuous periods of activity has been shown to keep your heart in this desirable range. Keep in mind that target heart rates differ based on each individual, and can be affected by certain medications.

Medications that can affect your heart rate include:

  • Asthma medications
  • Cold medicines and decongestants
  • Amphetamines or illegal drugs such as cocaine
  • Heart and blood pressure medication
  • Depression and anxiety medications
  • Thyroid medication


It is important to talk to your doctor if you are taking these drugs or any combinations of them. Because these medications can affect heart rate in their own way, your currently prescribed treatment regimen may have to be adjusted.

Target heart rates may vary based on factors such as age and personal fitness level, but understanding and calculating yours can help you get the most out of your workouts while protecting and even improving your health.

Related: Can you reverse heart disease?

Author Bio

Devon Andre has been involved in the health and dietary supplement industry for a number of years. Devon has written extensively for Bel Marra Health. He has a Bachelor of Forensic Science from the University of Windsor, and went on to complete a Juris Doctor from the University of Pittsburgh. Devon is keenly aware of trends and new developments in the area of health and wellness. He embraces an active lifestyle combining diet, exercise and healthy choices. By working to inform readers of the options available to them, he hopes to improve their health and quality of life.


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