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Target heart rate

Exercise and Target Heart Rate

When you rest in a very quiet area, so quiet that you can hear your heartbeat and feel its rhythm, you observe how calm and periodic it is – like a clock’s ticking. This is in stark contrast to the chaotic beating you observe when you’re engaged in a flight or fight situation like running from a dog or heavy lifting.

The heart rate is an important physiological value when exercising or weightlifting. It informs you of your health status and your progress with your workout routines and alerts you when you’re in danger. Keep scrolling down to learn more about exercise and heart rate.

Target Heart Rate zones

What is Heart rate?

Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. At birth, the heart rate range is 120-160 beats per minute. This heart range slowly declines before settling at 60-100 beats per minute. A person’s average heart rate is affected by several factors like weather, emotions, body weight, exercise, and drugs like caffeine and nicotine.

Heart rate is an important indicator of heart health and performance. Regularly monitoring your heart rate helps you take care of yourself properly and adjust your routines accordingly.

Resting Heart Rate

Resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute when you are at rest or not active, and your heart is not working too hard to pump blood through your body. A healthy resting heart rate, measured when you have not exerted yourself, should fall between 60-100 beats per minute (bpm). However, the exact resting heart rate values vary between individuals and depend on activity levels and health conditions.

For example, a normal healthy adult’s average resting heart rate is 72 beats per minute. But in obese individuals, or individuals that are not very active physically, this average rate is around 110 beats per minute. In contrast, athletes and bodybuilders have average resting heart rates closer to 60 beats per minute. So, in essence, the more physically fit you are, the lower your heart rate.

The resting heart rate indicates how healthy the heart muscles are. Generally, lower resting heart rates imply healthier heart muscles.

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Active Heart Rate and Maximum Heart Rate

As the name implies, the active heart rate is your heart rate when you are active or engaged in physical activity. Your active heart rate is always higher than your resting heart rate and depends on how intensely you work out.

Your maximum heart rate or maximum safe heart rate refers to the upper limit of your heart rate. It is the maximum heart rate that is considered safe for you. The maximum heart rate is obtained by subtracting your age from 220. For example, for a 35-year-old man, the maxim heart rate would be 220 – 35 = 185bpm. This means that this person should not let their heart rate get to or cross 185bpm.

Although the maximum heart rate has a formula, it depends on other factors such as health status and level of physical activity. For example, a 50-year-old hypertensive would have a lower maximum heart rate than a healthy 50-year-old.

How Does Exercise Affect Heart Rate

When performing exercises of any sort, we think of our physical muscles like the core, pectoralis, gluts and calves. However, we also work out the heart muscles, which influence how well we perform when we work out.

The heart’s job is to pump blood to meet the oxygen demand in every tissue in the body. The heart beats at a baseline force and rate to pump out adequate blood to meet oxygen requirements. However, when you start to exercise, your muscles begin to burn energy faster and thus require more oxygen to meet the increased metabolic rate. To meet the new increased oxygen requirements, the heart has to pump more blood. Since there’s no additional source of blood in the body, the heart meets the high blood requirement by pumping faster (increased heart rate) and more forcefully.

After the exercise, your muscles will need less oxygen, and your heart rate will drop. Like other muscles, your heart gets stronger with activity. The more you exercise, the stronger your heart gets, and the more efficient it becomes in carrying out its duties. Thus, following regular exercise, your resting heart rate will drop as the stronger heart muscles can now pump more blood with less effort.

How much heart rate increases during exercise depends on the intensity of your routines. It is also suggested that more intense routines lead to lower resting heart pressures over time. However, high-intensity routines risk increasing the active heart rate beyond the safe threshold or maximum heart rate.

High-intensity interval training workouts (HIIT) which comprise moderate-intensity workouts followed by short bursts of high-intensity workouts, are suggested as being optimal for heart rate regulation. These workouts enable you to reach the upper limits of your target heart rate without crossing the dangerous thresholds. However, these workouts have limitations, such as unsuitability in certain populations. Thus, moderate-intensity aerobic exercises are most recommended for long-term improvement of heart rate.

Target Heart Rate

Generally, when working out, the higher your active heart rate, the more intense your workout is and the better your progress. However, if your active heart rate approaches your maxim safe heart rate, it may be harmful to you. Thus, you should maintain your active heart rate within a range that is high enough to infer intensity but low enough to keep you safe. This range of values is known as the target heart rate.

The target heart rate is like a boundary between working out hard enough and not working too hard that you stress out your heart. It is the heart rate range that you should aim for when exercising and is typically between 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Thus, for example, our 35-year-old man would have a target heart rate of 92-157bpm

Finding Your Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate should typically be between 50 and 85% of your maximum heart rate. When working out, you can easily keep track of your target heart rate by wearing heart rate monitors that easily track your heart rate and give a signal when you exert yourself beyond your target heart rate.

Target heart rate varies with age and also with the level of intensity. That is to say, the target heart rate of a 20-year-old engaging in a moderate-intensity activity will be different from that of a 50-year-old engaging in the same activity. Conversely, the target heart rate for a 30-year-old engaging in a moderate-intensity activity will differ from that in high-intensity workouts.

Target heart rate for various age range in moderate and vigorous-intensity activities.

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Target Heart Rate for Weight Loss

The fat-burning heart rate is the number of times a person’s heart should beat per minute to burn the most fat. If you want to lose weight, hitting a fat-burning heart rate is essential.

The higher the heart rate, the more fat the body burns. At the fat-burning heart rate, your body is optimally burning fat and requires more oxygen from the blood to meet up with the energy requirements for the burning process.

Working out at 70% to 80% of maximum heart rate with moderate to high-intensity workouts will help you obtain a fat-burning heart rate. You can go for moderate-intensity workouts like brisk walking, water aerobics, tennis, cycling, dancing, slow jogging etc. You can also consider high-intensity workouts like hiking uphill, running, swimming laps, aerobic dancing, jumping rope etc.  

How to Calculate Fat-burning Heart Rate

The fat-burning heart rate is calculated as 70-80% of the maximum heart rate. Like the target heart rate, fat-burning heart rate depends on age. However, it does not depend on the intensity of the activity. Once it is reached, fat burning becomes optimal.

Fat burning heart rate at different ages

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Monitoring your Heart Rate

Monitoring your heart rate helps you keep track of the state of your heart. Heart rate monitoring can be carried out manually or through heart rate monitoring devices. You should measure your rating and active heart rates to get an accurate view of the state of your health.

Resting heart rate can easily be measured manually. This is done by placing the right thumb over the radial artery in the left wrist, just below the thumb. Count how many times the artery pulsates in 60 seconds and record your resting heart rate.

You can also measure resting heart rate by using portable heart rate monitors to read pulses through the thumbs, wrists or arms. These monitors usually also provide EKG readings.

Active heart rate is typically measured using heart rate monitors that are attached to the body and read the heart rate as you exercise. There are different heart rate monitors, including the wrist heart rate monitors that are worn like wristwatches or bands and read the heart rate through LED technology. You can use the chest strap heart rate monitors that act like portable EKGs and read heart rate by detecting electrical impulses for more accurate heart rate readings.

Heart rate monitoring is essential for two primary reasons: safety and success.

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Keeping track of your heart rate during exercise allows you to monitor the safety of your fitness program; you will be able to see if the fitness program is doing more harm than good to your heart.

You should check your heart rate according to the safety parameters for resting and target heart rates. If it gets abnormal, you should slow down and take a break or visit your doctor.


Another reason to keep track of your heart rate when exercising is to measure your progress. This will assist you in reaching your fitness goals. If your heart rate does not rise above your resting heart rate after monitoring it, you are not exercising hard enough. In all, this will help you fine-tune your routine so that you achieve the best results possible.


Heart Rate


Target heart rate is an important element in safely achieving your fitness goals. It acts as an indicator to inform you that your routine is optimal but that you’re still in the safe zone. In addition to target heart rate, fat-burning heart rate serves as a measure to determine how effective weight loss routines are.

Being an essential indicator of overall heart health, you should endeavor to monitor your heart rate regularly, both at rest and when active. Take a break if your heart rate is getting too high, and speak to your doctor about measures to control it.


Understanding your target heart rate

What are target heart rates?

Fat-burning heart rate: what is it, how to calculate

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