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How to Find Your Target Heart Rate ( Part 1 )

Nobody wants to waste time, but know this – if you’re moving, it’s not wasted time! Let’s take it a step further though, because isn’t that why you’re here? The question is, what makes a good cardio workout? And the answer is, know your target heart rate.

The heart is basically a pump. Its job is to pump freshly oxygenated blood from your lungs throughout the body and to circulate it back to the lungs where carbon dioxide can be exchanged, once again, for oxygen. The term “heart rate” refers to the number of times your heart beats in a minute. The important part to remember though, is that your heart is not just a pump – it’s a muscle! Cardio-vascular exercise (cardio, having to do with the heart, and vascular, having to do with the blood vessels), or cardio for short, makes the heart stronger and more efficient. When the heart is strong and efficient, it can pump the same amount of blood with fewer beats per minute. This is our goal.

Your target heart rate is actually a range of beats per minute (BPM) that challenges and conditions the heart to make it stronger. Target heart rate is different for everyone because it is somewhere between your resting heart rate (RHR) and your maximum heart rate (MHR). Resting heart rate is exactly what it sounds like – your pulse taken when your body is at rest. The best time to determine your RHR is first thing in the morning, while you are still lying in bed. RHR can vary anywhere from 40 to 100 beats BPM. Usually the lower the resting heart rate the more fit the person. Maximum heart rate is also different for everyone and is influenced by age as well as fitness level. MHR is that level where a person is so out of breath that sustained exercise is not possible. Somewhere in between is that sweet spot, your own personal target heart rate.

So that’s your biology lesson for the day. Let’s get to the meat and potatoes (or shall we say, fish and broccoli?)

There are three main methods for calculating your target heart rate, but the easiest and most widely used is the age predicted method. This formula is basically an estimate, but it works well for most people. The first step is to find your maximum heart rate which you would determine by subtracting your age from 220. For example, a forty year old would have an MHR of 180 (220-40). At this level of BPM, our 40 year old would be extremely out of breath and unable to keep going. To determine the target heart rate you then use that maximum number to calculate a range of 60% to 85% of MHR. In our example, our 40 year old would multiply 180 x .60 and 180x .85 to get his target heart rate of 108 to 153 BPM. Generally, a beginning exerciser would want to stay closer to the lower end of the range – near to that 60% level – for the first few weeks. The goal is to keep your BPM in that target range for 15 to 30 minutes.

That’s it! Age predicted target heart rate is not considered the most accurate, however it’s the most commonly used method, so get out there and hit your target. Stay tuned for our next blog where we’ll discuss the other two commonly used methods of determining the right intensity level for you.

Yours in Good Health,

Dave and Diane Morrison

Co-founders of Thrive Plus & Cardioclub.

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