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Defining Target Heart Rates

By DuPage Medical Group Cardiology

When you’re exercising, how do you know if you’re working too hard or not hard enough? It can be tricky to navigate, but understanding what a target heart rate is and your target heart rate range can help you make sure you’re exercising at the right intensity.

Defining Target Heart Rates

A target heart rate is a range of heart beats per minute that constitutes healthy exercise levels. Target heart rates vary between age groups and activity levels (well-trained athletes vs. the average person).

Finding Your Target Heart Rate

To begin, find your resting heart rate. This is best determined right after you wake up. Take your first two fingers (not your thumb) and place it on your wrist on the thumb side and press lightly until you feel a pulse (you can also do this on your neck if it is easier for you). Count how many times your heart beats in 10 seconds and then multiple that number by 6. This will give you your resting heart rate. The average person aged 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors), should have a resting heart rate between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

From here, you can understand your target heart rate. Typically, your maximum heart rate should be 220 minus your age (ex. 220-35=185 beats per minute). When exercising, your target heart rate should be between 50%-85% of your maximum heart rate. If your maximum heart rate is 185, your target heart rate is between 93-157 beats per minute while exercising.

When you first begin an exercise routine, try to aim for the lower end of your target heart rate zone. Then, slowly build to the upper end of your target heart rate zone. After about six months, you should be able to comfortably exercise in your upper range. A general rule is if you can’t carry on a conversation, you are probably exercising too hard.

Remember to talk with your doctor before you begin a workout regimen to ensure you’re in good health to start. 

Topics and Subtopics: Fitness & Exercise & Heart Health

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