Posted on 20 March, 2017

What is my Target Heart Rate?

By Jacob Andreae in How-to, Fitness, Performance What is my Target Heart Rate?

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Heart rate is the number of times your heart beats in a minute. The target part refers to getting your heart rate to sit within a certain number of beats. This is a particularly common thing to do for runners but has also been popular for people training to lose weight.

When I was running competitively (at the time I was training for sprint events), we had to do two long runs a week. These runs consisted of 20 to 30 minutes. There wasn’t much emphasis put on heart rate but being into science, I liked to research different training techniques. I loved to collect data on myself and compare the results, so amongst other things, I always used to check my heart rate.

I came across the concept of target heart rate zones for aerobic conditioning. The science found that maintaining your heart rate between a particular zone would allow you to get the best out of an aerobic training session. It was also found that there was a specific heart rate zone that would allow you to most effectively burn fat too.

Aerobic training and fat burning zones for heart rate are different. To get the most out of an aerobic training session, the ideal heart rate zone is 55 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This is the heart rate zone that we would have got the greatest benefits aerobically from our 20 to 30 minute runs.

Burning fat actually occurs at a lower heart rate zone to what many people think. The ideal heart rate zone for burning fat is 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate. Many people think they need to workout at 100 percent effort in order to lose weight. That may burn many more calories but calories are not all created equal. Working out at higher levels of intensity are good for fitness and burning fat but it predominantly burns sugar and other forms of carbohydrates. These are the short-term energy supplies, available for quick use in case you need to run from a lion.

For complete best fat burning results, incorporate a combination of short, high-intensity workouts with long, low-intensity workouts.

Calculating your Target Heart Rate

To establish your target heart rate, you need first to work out your maximum heart rate (MHR). To work out your MHR, subtract your age from the number 220 (MHR = 220 — age).

For example, for a 40 year old women:

220 — age (40) = 180 beats per minute

This calculated MHR is just a guide. Calculating your MHR using this equation, which is the simplest and most accessible way of doing so in my opinion, comes with its downfalls. Your true MHR can vary by about 15 beats per minute either side of the calculation. While it may be possible to exceed 100 percent of your MHR, exceeding 85 percent of your MHR can be dangerous, especially if it is for extended periods of time, you have a heart condition or are on medication. Always consult a medical professional before commencing any regular exercise regime or vigorous physical activity.

To establish your target heart rate, first convert the percentages into decimals. For example:

55% = 0.55
60% = 0.60
70% = 0.70
85% = 0.85

To establish your target heart rate zones, multiply your MHR by the percentage (as a decimal). For example, for a 40 year old women:

55% = MHR (180) x 0.55 = 99 beats per minute
60% = MHR (180) x 0.60 = 108 beats per minute
70% = MHR (180) x 0.70 = 126 beats per minute
85% = MHR (180) x 0.85 = 153 beats per minute

Utilising heart rate training zones is beneficial in maximising your fat burning and aerobic conditioning results. However, it is a strategy for maximising your results, not for getting results. You don’t have to perform a range of calculations or measure your heart rate to start getting results. Start now by participating in more physical activity that you already do and enjoy.

Now that you know how to work out your MHR, what is yours?

Have a go at calculating 85% of your MHR. What is it?

About Jacob Andreae

About Jacob Andreae

I write and speak about Fitness, Nutrition and Mindset. 

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What is my Target Heart Rate?A quick start guide to losing weight and staying on track. Learn the strategies I use to eat and move for optimal health. Includes worksheets to enhance your motivation, commitment and discipline, along with a sample eating plan and exercise program.