Reaching Your Target Heart Rate

reaching your target heart rateYour heart rate is a measure of how hard your heart is working to pump blood around the body. It is usually measured by counting the number of heartbeats per minute. Your baseline heart rate refers to how fast the heart is beating at rest, before beginning any exercise. In adults and seniors, the average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute.

To estimate your resting heart rate, put two fingers on the inside of your wrist or on your neck. Count the number of times your heart beats in ten seconds, and multiply that number by six. That is your resting heart rate.

When you start exercising, you notice right away that your heart beats faster and your breathing increases. This is because your body’s demand for blood and oxygen increases, causing the heart to work harder to meet the increased need. Over time, exercise strengthens the heart to be able to pump blood more efficiently. This is why trained athletes tend to have lower resting heart rates, usually between 40 and 60 beats per minute.

In order to get the most benefit from your exercise routine, your heart rate must increase a certain amount. Target heart rate ranges provide a good guideline to gauge your exercise goals.

Your target heart rate is defined by the American Heart Association as 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Maximum heart rate can be estimated by subtracting your age from the number 220. The following table, adapted from the American Heart Association’s table, gives target ranges and maximum heart rates for people ages 40 to 70.

AgeTarget HR (beats per minute)Maximum HR (beats per minute)
4090-153180
4588-149175
5085-145170
5583-140165
6080-136160
6578-132155
7075-128150

When you start exercising, a good goal is to aim for the lower number of your target heart rate. As your heart strengthens, you can slowly increase the target. Periodically measure your heart rate while exercising in the same way that you did at rest. If your heart rate is too high, slow down a bit. If it’s too low and you feel able, speed up a bit.

Target heart rate is not a perfect measure, but it can be a good tool to make sure you’re hitting your exercise goals. It is important to note that some medications might reduce your resting or maximum heart rate, so ask your doctor or cardiologist about your specific medications and medical condition before beginning a new exercise program–then adjust your target range accordingly and enjoy moving and being active!

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