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How to determine your target heart rate

A heart rate monitor can help keep your workout on track
A heart rate monitor can help keep your workout on track

If you are just starting an exercise program or want to take your current program to the next level, knowing what your target heart rate should be is not only important for your success but it can also be important for safety as well.

Start by calculating your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220 beats per minute (bpm). For an example, if you’re forty years old your maximum rate will be 180 bpm (220-40).

Next, take into consideration your current fitness level. If you are just getting started, The American Heart Association (AHA) recommends that you begin by exercising at 50% of your maximum. So a sedentary forty year old should maintain a level of about 90 beats per minute for the first few weeks of their program. If you have been working out for a while and want to step it up, do so gradually. Over time you can begin to target 80% or 85% of your maximum. Don’t be impatient; it may take you six months to get to this point.

For most of us, a normal resting heart rate is 60 to100 bpm. Since our heart is a muscle it gets stronger and more efficient with use. Athletes typically fall within a lower range of 40 to 60 bpm, says Edward R. Laskowski, M.D for the Mayo clinic. Therefore taking your resting heart rate regularly is a great way to assess the impact your exercise program is having on your health.

You can take your heart rate or pulse by placing your three middle fingers at either your wrist or throat next to your windpipe. Count the beats for 10 seconds and multiply by six.

If you find that checking your heart rate several times during your workout becomes distracting, you may consider purchasing a heart rate monitor. Some models will even send a signal to your treadmill or stationary bicycle to display the rate on the machine’s screen or on a wrist watch. Some models track your the heart rate over the course of your workout and then allow you to upload the results into a program on your computer to assist in charting your progress over time. There are a great many models out available at all prices, so you are sure to find one that suits your needs and budget.

Working out at too low an intensity won’t lead to the results you want and working out at too high an intensity can lead to injuries. Monitoring your heart rate correctly is one of the easiest and most effective methods to be sure you are in the correct zone and getting the most of your workouts.


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