By Katie Joly
Months ago, I posted an article under the Health section of Pink Puck talking about High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) and the benefits that this type of work out has. An important aspect of HIIT, or any workout for that matter, that I didn’t discuss is target heart rate.
You’ve probably seen this mentioned on posters or flyers in fitness centers or on the elliptical or treadmill. Unlike weight bearing exercises where you can count the number of repetitions, cardiovascular exercise doesn’t have an obvious way to measure progress or success. You can use time or distance but if you run three miles per day at the same pace; your body isn’t challenged because it becomes comfortable with this routine. This is where target heart rate comes in. Knowing and using your target heart rate can increase the intensity of your workout and challenge your cardiovascular fitness as you strive to meet your fitness goals. Below we will discuss two ways to calculate your target heart rate.
Calculating Your Target Heart Rate
Though the equation isn’t all that complicated, there are easier ways to calculate your target heart rate. In fact, LiveStrong has developed an online widget to make our lives easier! This widget involves two easy steps:
1) Enter your age
2) Enter your intensity level (moderate or vigorous)
That’s it! And your target heart rate zone for your desired level of intensity is calculated for you. LiveStrong’s heart rate calculator.
So before you head out to your next boot camp class, circuit training class, or run, go online and find out what your target heart rate is for both moderate intensity exercise and vigorous intensity exercise. Now, I want to show you to calculate your target heart rate using the formulas.
Step 1: Calculate your Maximum Heart Rate
Your Maximum Heart Rate (MHR) is the amount of beats per minute your heart is capable of. The simplest way to calculate this is to subtract your age from 220. Please keep in mind that this is an estimate and any heart medications or heart conditions could alter this number.
220-age = MHR
Step 2: Calculate Moderate Intensity Heart Rate
The moderate intensity heart rate zone falls within 50-70% of your maximum heart rate. So to calculate the full range, use these formulas:
MHR x .50
MHR x .70
Step 3: Calculate Vigorous Intensity Heart Rate
Healthy vigorous activity should fall within 70-85% of your maximum heart rate. To calculate the full range, use these formulas:
MHR x .70
MHR x .85
After finishing these formulas you will have your target heart rate zone for moderate and vigorous intensity. Again, the formulas aren’t difficult but using LiveStrong’s online tool would be a quick and easy way to learn your target heart rate zones. Keep in mind that going above 85% of your maximum heart rate puts unnecessary strain on your heart and there are no added benefits to exceeding this number.
Benefits of Knowing or Monitoring Target Heart Rate
Knowing your target heart rate zone is beneficial for a couple of reasons. First, you can achieve an optimal workout by knowing where you are within your zones and having this information can also help you pace yourself during your workout. Second, if you’ve ever had any heart conditions or are on any medications, monitoring your heart rate during a workout is extremely important.
To bring this all full circle, knowing your target heart rate can help you achieve your optimal performance. When performing interval training or a Tabatta, check your pulse before and after, (or use a heart rate monitor) and see if you’re within your target heart rate zone for vigorous exercise. Striving to stay in this zone will keep your workouts challenging, but safe, as you continue on your path to achieve your fitness goals.