What should your heart rate be when working out, and how can you keep track of it? Our simple chart will help keep you in the target training zone, whether you want to lose weight or just maximize your workout. Find out what normal resting and maximum heart rates are for your age and how exercise intensity and other factors affect heart rate.


How do you get your heart rate in the target zone?

When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? There’s a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you hit the bullseye so you can get max benefit from every step, swing and squat. Even if you’re not a gym rat or elite athlete, knowing your heart rate (or pulse) can help you track your health and fitness level.

First Things First: Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. A good time to check it is in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep, before you get out of bed or grab that first cup of java!

For most of us, between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm) is normal.1 The rate can be affected by factors like stress, anxiety, hormones, medication, and how physically active you are. An athlete or more active person may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. Now that’s chill!

When it comes to resting heart rate, lower is better. It usually means your heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat. Studies have found that a higher resting heart rate is linked with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure and body weight.2

Know Your Numbers: Maximum and Target Heart Rate

This table shows target heart rate zones for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age.3

In the age category closest to yours, read across to find your target heart rates. Target heart rate during moderate intensity activities is about 50-70% of maximum heart rate, while during vigorous physical activity it’s about 70-85% of maximum.

The figures are averages, so use them as a general guide.


Target HR Zone 50-85%

Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%

20 years 100-170 beats per minute (bpm) 200 bpm
30 years 95-162 bpm 190 bpm
35 years 93-157 bpm 185 bpm
40 years 90-153 bpm 180 bpm
45 years 88-149 bpm 175 bpm
50 years 85-145 bpm 170 bpm
55 years 83-140 bpm 165 bpm
60 years 80-136 bpm 160 bpm
65 years 78-132 bpm 155 bpm
70 years 75-128 bpm 150 bpm

Heart rate zones, or running HR zones, are a way to monitor how hard you’re training. Running heart rate is split into 5 heart rate zones based on the intensity of training with regard to your maximum heart rate.

An effective running plan will include different types of workouts with varying frequency, duration and intensity spaced out so that you have time to recover. This means that some workouts should be short and intense, some long and light, some can even be long and tough. It’s the variety that makes your running training effective.

Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during a workout.

  • Frequency is easy to understand: it’s how many times you exercise per period of time, for example per week.
  • Duration is simple too: it’s how long you exercise at a time, usually counted in minutes.
  • Intensity is a bit more complicated – and that’s where the heart rate zones come in. Your heart rate is one of the best indicators of how hard your body is working during a workout.

Unlike a purely subjective evaluation of intensity, your heart rate is a number you can measure, just like frequency and duration.

What are heart rate zones?

We all have a personal resting heart rate, “a minimum heart rate” , and a maximum heart rate. And between these values are different heart rate zones that correspond to training intensity and training benefit.

There are different ways to specify your heart rate zones. One simple way is to define them as percentages of your maximum heart rate, and that’s what we’ll focus on in this introduction.

Heart rate zones can be defined as percentages of your maximum heart rate.

Heart rate zones are closely linked to your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds.

Five heart rate zones

There are five different zones, 1–5, and your training plan can include workouts in all these five zones.

Below is a breakdown of what each heart rate zone means and what the benefits of training in that heart rate zone are.

Heart rate zone 1: 50–60% of HRmax

This is the very low intensity zone. Training at this intensity will boost your recovery and get you ready to train in the higher heart rate zones.

To train at this intensity, pick sports during which you can easily control your heart rate, such as walking or cycling.

Heart rate zone 2: 60–70% of HRmax

Exercising in heart rate zone 2 feels light and you should be able to go on for a long time at this intensity.

This is the zone that improves your general endurance: your body will get better at oxidizing – burning – fat and your muscular fitness will increase along with your capillary density.

Training in heart rate zone 2 is an essential part of every runner’s program. Keep at it and you’ll reap the benefits later.

Heart rate zone 3: 70–80% of HRmax

Running in heart rate zone 3 is especially effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in the heart and skeletal muscles. This is the zone in which that pesky lactic acid starts building up in your bloodstream.

Training in this HR zone will make moderate efforts easier and improve your efficiency.

Heart rate zone 4: 80–90% of HRmax

Heart rate zone 4 is where the going gets tough. You’ll be breathing hard and running aerobically.

If you train at this intensity, you’ll improve your speed endurance. Your body will get better at using carbohydrates for energy and you’ll be able to withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer.

Heart rate zone 5: 90–100% of HRmax

Heart rate zone 5 is your maximal effort. Your heart and your blood and respiratory system will be working at their maximal capacity. Lactic acid will build up in your blood and after a few minutes you won’t be able to continue at this intensity.

If you’re just starting out or have only been training for some time, you probably won’t have to train at this intensity. If you’re a professional athlete, look into incorporating interval training into your training plan for peak performance.

Calculate your personal heart rate zones

Do you know your maximum heart rate? Use the calculator below to estimate your heart rate zones based on your maximum heart rate.

Don’t know your HRmax? Read more about calculating your maximum heart rate.

How to use heart rate zones to improve your running

Variety is key if you want to become a better runner so mix different workouts and vary the duration of your training sessions.

Don’t get stuck running at the same intensity and the same distance every time. Create a routine where you run in all five heart rate zones.

If you’re looking for a running plan, check out the Polar Running Program. It’s meant for anyone training for a 5K, a 10K, half-marathon or marathon. With this personalized training plan you don’t have to think about when or how to train, you can focus on what’s important – running.

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Please note that the information provided in the Polar Blog articles cannot replace individual advice from health professionals. Please consult your physician before starting a new fitness program.

Get in the Zone: How to Burn Fat Fast with Target Heart Rate Training

If you’ve ever been curious about heart rate zones, now’s the time to give target heart rate training a shot. Fitbit trackers with PurePulse automatically set your heart rate zones for you, making getting started a snap. Here’s how to use this function to help improve results, prevent overtraining, and even avoid injury.

What is Target Heart Rate Training?

It sounds complicated, but target heart rate training just means you track your heart rate during workouts and try to keep it within a set intensity range or “zone” that corresponds to your fitness goal.

Know Your Heart Rate Zones

You’ve probably noticed that after logging a workout, your Fitbit app shows you a colorful graph depicting how much time you spent in three heart rate zones. Knowing a little bit about how these zones were created can help you make the most of them.

Target heart rate zones are calculated using maximum heart rate—the highest number of times your heart can safely beat in one minute. To keep things simple, Fitbit uses the common formula of 220 minus your age to estimate your maximum heart rate. So a 35-year-old would have a max heart rate of 185 (220-35=185).

If your birthday is entered into your Fitbit account profile, then the app will default to this formula to calculate your max heart rate. However if you already know your max heart rate or want to target a specific number, you can click “Account” on your Fitbit app dashboard, choose “HR Zones,” and then turn on “Custom Max Heart Rate,” and fill in a custom max heart rate there.

Once Fitbit knows your max heart rate, it will create three simplified zones for you. Each one represents an intensity level—or percentage of your max heart rate—that taps into a different energy system in the body, producing specific results. Here’s a breakdown:

Intensity: Vigorous (85 to 100 percent of your max heart rate)
Benefit: Increases performance speed

Intensity: Hard (70 to 84 percent of your max hr)
Benefit: Builds cardiovascular fitness and muscle strength

Fat Burn
Intensity: Moderate (50 to 69 percent of your max hr)
Benefit: Builds aerobic endurance and teaches the body to burn fat as fuel

If you want to create a custom zone, you can also do this in the “HR Zones” settings of your account profile. Turn on “Custom Zone” and enter the upper and lower limits you want.

Nail Every Workout With Target Heart Rate Zones

Now that your heart rate zones are set and you know what they mean, you can work out at the right intensity again.

Using your Fitbit tracker, start a workout as you normally would. As you begin moving, no matter which PurePulse-enabled tracker you own, you’ll see a visual representation of your zones.
For instance, in the picture above the heart is in the cardio zone. Want to work on speed? Pick up the pace. Looking to blast fat? Ease up to drop back into your “Fat Burn” zone. When you adjust your pace on the fly, your Fitbit tracker responds instantly.

If you see the outline of a heart but no dashes, your heart rate is below 50 percent of your max, meaning you’re not in a zone. And that’s totally ok! If you want to get a cardiovascular boost, just increase your intensity. Here are four ways to upgrade your walk to a workout.

Heart rate reading seem off? Follow these guidelines to increase PurePulse accuracy.

Review Your Time in Heart Rate Zones

At the end of your workout, click on the exercise tile on your Fitbit app dashboard to view a summary of your workout. In addition to seeing exercise duration, calories burned, and average heart rate, you’ll also be able to see how much time you spent in each of your three heart rate zones and how your heart rate fluctuated (or didn’t) over the course of your workout.

If your heart rate information seems off—too high or too low based on how hard you felt like you were working—and you know you were wearing your tracker correctly (snugly, two finger widths below the wrist bone), you may need to set custom heart rate zones.

Heart rate tracking is helpful in the short term—it helps you evaluate your workout and see what, if anything, you should do differently next time—but it’s also valuable over time. The more you work out with heart rate, the more you’ll also be able to track patterns in your fitness program—like if you’re spending too much or too little time at any particular exercise intensity. The result? You hit your goals faster (bye, fat!) and with less risk of injury or overtraining. Go, you.

Related Stories:
Fitbit Allows You to Set Custom HR Zones. Do You Need Them?
Getting Older Affects Your Max Heart Rate (But That’s OK!)
Running for Weight Loss? Follow These Four Rules.

This information is for educational purposes only and is not intended as a substitute for medical diagnosis or treatment. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat a health problem or condition. Always check with your doctor before changing your diet, altering your sleep habits, taking supplements, or starting a new fitness routine.

Danielle Kosecki

Senior health and fitness editor Danielle Kosecki is an award-winning journalist who has covered health and fitness for more than 10 years. She’s written for Glamour, More, Prevention, and Bicycling magazines, among others, and is the editor of The Bicycling Big Book of Training. A New York native, Danielle now lives in the Bay Area where she doesn’t miss winter at all.

How to Calculate Your Training Heart Rate Zones

Heart-rate training benefits everyone, from the beginning exerciser trying to lose weight, to individuals trying to improve their cardiovascular fitness, to the highly conditioned athlete preparing for the next competition.

The key to making progress is to elevate your heart rate into the correct training zone, so your effort matches your goals.

Here are seven easy-to-follow steps that will help you calculate your ideal heart-rate training zone.

1. Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate

The easiest way to do this is a simple paper-and-pencil calculation. Subtract your age from 220. The result is an age-predicted maximum beats per minute.

It’s important to note that this method does not take into account your fitness level or inherited genes, which can make your true maximum heart rate 10 to 20 beats per minute higher or lower than the age-predicted number.

A second method to calculate your maximum heart rate is to have an exercise tolerance or stress test. This usually is supervised by a physician and performed in a hospital or clinical setting in three-minute stages, during which the speed and incline continue to increase in an effort to elevate your heart rate until it climbs to its highest level.

2. Determine Your Resting Heart Rate

Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Do this for several days in a row to get consistent readings.

3. Calculate Your Heart-Rate Reserve

Subtract your heart’s resting rate from your maximum rate.

For example, if you are 40 years old, subtract that number from 220; your maximum rate is 180. Next, subtract your resting rate or 80 in this example. Your heart-rate reserve is 100 beats per minute.

This heart-rate reserve represents the cushion heartbeats available for exercise.

4. Calculate Your Aerobic Training Heart-Rate Range for Fat Burning

This fat-burning range will lie between 50 and 75 percent of your heart-rate reserve.

Using the example above, 50 percent of 100 beats per minute is 50. And 75 percent of 100 is 75. Next, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 50 + 80 = 130 and 75 + 80 = 155. Therefore, during aerobic training, the heart rate that will most efficiently burn fat is 130 to 155 beats per minute.

It’s no secret: Runners love fancy running gear, and if you’ve been itching for a good reason to invest in a new fancy watch that will track and measure everything you might need to hit your next PR, heart rate training just might be the excuse you’ve been looking for.

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“Heart rate training allows you to monitor your effort, to keep the easy days easy, the hard days hard, and the tempo sessions in the right ‘effort,’” says Terra Castro, the Owner and Founder of Detroit Body Garage. Without heart rate data, “many people spend time in this ‘gray zone,’ not getting the full benefit of the training effect,” she says. “Plus, heart rate training is also a way to make sure you aren’t overtraining and are recovering well.”

But in order to execute heart rate training properly, you have to get to know your different heart rate zones and specifically, your maximum heart rate, the highest heart rate you can attain during exercise. The catch, of course, is that knowing your estimated maximum heart rate can be a little elusive to pin down.

How to Calculate Maximum Heart Rate

The most common way to find your maximum heart rate is by using one of the many age-based equations. The most well-known of these is the Fox formula. It is the very simple:

220 – age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

This means that for a 30-year-old runner, the estimated maximum heart rate would be 190. Then, heart rate zones can be determined by calculating a given percentage of the 190 MHR.

The trouble with the Fox formula is that it’s not the most accurate measure as numerous variables impact MHR including genetics, the specific activity (MHR varies between running and cycling due to the involvement of upper body musculature), medications, body size, altitude, and yes—even age. Runners of the same age can have drastically different max heart rates depending on how well-trained they are.
Because of this, there are at least six possible formulas, all claiming bragging rights for being the “most accurate” for predicting maximal heart rate. Of course, researchers are doing their best to validate the different formulas, but that gets tricky, too. For instance, a 2011 study published in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research determined that in college-aged subjects, the Gellish2 and Fairburn equations seemed to be the most accurate options. That said, the American College of Sports Medicine recommends formulas with a standard deviation of seven beats per minute such as Gellish and Tanaka equations.

But there’s still a problem for the general public when it comes to using these formulas—they’re still just a rough estimate of MHR because differences between individuals can vary widely. For instance, a longitudinal study published in 2010 in the Journal of Medicine and Science in Sport and Exercise found that the older a person is, and the higher the person’s body mass index (BMI), the less likely it is for age-predicted maximal heart rates (like all of the formulas above) to be accurate. So studies that look at healthy, college-aged subjects, or trained athletes, or really, anyone under 50 years old, may not be good predictors for other people in the general population.

So what are you to do? It never hurts to get an estimate of what your heart rate max might be based on any of the above formulas. But from there, just start paying attention to where your heart rate tracks during workouts to see if the estimates feel accurate. “The heart rate tolerance is specific to each individual and is best determined by experience,” says William O. Roberts, M.D., M.S., professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Community Health at the University of Minnesota. “The role of MHR for runners is to provide a guide for training. The closer you are to your MHR during your workouts and races, the shorter the duration of exercise that you’ll be able to maintain at that pace. So, if you can maintain a rate of 160 during your workouts and races, your MHR is well above that.”

How to Measure Your Heart Rate

To properly utilize heart rate training, you need an easy way to track your heart rate. Of course, you can always go “old school,” use a timer, and place your fingers on your pulse to check beats per minute during your workouts, but that can get challenging when your heart rate soars, and you’re trying to count beats while huffing and puffing. Fortunately, chest straps and wrist watches make measuring your HR instantly easier.

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Just about any GPS-tracking watch will also track heart rate with at least moderate accuracy, but if you’re looking for the most accurate option available, studies show you’ll be best-served by opting for a chest-strap monitor.

According to a 2017 study comparing chest strap and wrist-based heart rate monitors, the Polar H7 (currently available as the H10) was the most accurate of the seven products tested. Of course, there are many options on the market that haven’t been tested with this type of scientifically-validated approach, but of those that have been studied, these products consistently achieve the most accurate results:

  • Polar chest straps
  • Apple Watch
  • TomTom Spark
  • Garmin Forerunner

4 Great Heart-Rate Monitors for Runners

Wahoo TICKR $49.99

Accurate, comfortable, affordable, and pairs easily to devices

Garmin HRM-Run $78.90

A high-powered HR monitor for data junkies

Apple Watch Series 4 $514.00

Optical heart-rate monitor with an EKG function

Scosche RHYTHM+ $79.95

A waterproof, optical HR monitor for your arm

Training With Heart Rate

Once you’ve selected a heart rate monitor, the trick is putting the information you glean from the watch or strap to use. After calculating your estimated MHR, determine your different heart rate zones by multiplying your MHR by the percentage for each zone. For example, if you wanted to find 55 percent of your maximum, you multiple your MHR by 0.55.

  • Zone 1: 55 percent to 65 percent: This is a very comfortable effort used for warmup and cooldown.
  • Zone 2: 65 percent to 75 percent: Used for the bulk of training, this relaxed effort allows you to hold a conversation.
  • Zone 3: 75 percent to 85 percent: This is a comfortably hard effort during which you can only say short, broken sentences.
  • Zone 4: 85 percent to 95 percent: Often a 5K pace, this is a very hard effort that’s sustainable, but only lets you speak a few words at a time.

This will give you ranges of beats per minute for each percentage of maximum heart rate. Then pre-determine the zone you want to work in during each running routine. As you run, you can check your heart rate monitor to make sure you’re staying in the desired zone.

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And luckily, there are apps that help manage this type of training for you. “I love using Garmin Connect Software and Strava,” says Castro. “I can plug my zones into my Garmin and track the time spent in each zone as well as track my overall progress toward my goal with specific data.”

Just remember, because heart rate maximums using age-predicted formulas are estimates, you may need to adjust your zones over time based on your own results and how each run feels. For instance, if you calculate your 90-percent zone (a near all-out effort) to be 175, but you’re able to maintain 175 beats per minute comfortably for several minutes, your estimated maximal heart rate has probably been underestimated. You may need to adjust your zones based on perceived effort at each level of intensity as time goes on and as you adapt to training.

Heart Rate Training Zone

Author: Richard Weil, MEd, CDE

It seems as though the concept of a heart rate training zone has been around forever. But I wonder how many people really understand how it works. In this article, I discuss the concept and how to determine your own zone.

The Main Idea

A heart rate training zone is a range that defines the upper and lower limits of training intensities. It is calculated using an age-related predicted maximum heart rate (HRmax) and a special equation called heart rate reserve (see “Calculating a Target Heart Rate Zone” below). The values are expressed as a percentage of maximum heart rate (for example, 70% of HRmax), and the range is based on (1) metabolic systems in your body that fuel your muscles during exercise, and (2) how hard you want to train. Training from 40% to 85% of HRmax is aerobic exercise (“cardio”). Aerobic means “with oxygen.” Training above 85% of HRmax is anaerobic exercise. Anaerobic means “without oxygen.”

The primary fuel during aerobic and anaerobic training is fat and carbohydrate, respectively, but it is very important to understand that both fuels are burned simultaneously at virtually all levels of exercise; it is not just one fuel or the other, except at the very highest intensities (close to 100% of HRmax). Resistance exercise and sprinting are examples of anaerobic training, whereas walking and jogging are typically considered aerobic, although you could walk or jog fast enough to make it anaerobic. It’s likely that you are working anaerobically (above 85%) if you’re out of breath during a workout and working aerobically (less than 85%) if you’re only slightly out of breath.

Maximum Heart Rate

HRmax is calculated by subtracting age from 220. The equation “220-age” yields an estimate only, since there is variability in maximum heart rates (see “Errors in Predicting Maximum Heart Rate” below). HRmax is biologically determined and declines as you age, and the correlation to age is strong; that is, if a large number of 20-75-year-old individuals walked on a treadmill to exhaustion to reach their HRmax, the distribution of heart rates would range from approximately 200 bpm (beats per minute) for the 20-year-olds down to 145 bpm for the 75-year-olds.

What Range Should I Train At?

Most people train within an aerobic exercise training zone (40% to 85% of HRmax). Aerobic capacity (endurance) will improve faster if you train closer to 85% than if you train at 65%, but some individuals don’t have the capacity to start training at 85%, or they simply prefer to start training at lower values and gradually increase the intensity over the time. Some individuals may even need to start at levels as low as 40% or 50%, depending on their age, level of fitness, or body weight. But the level that you start at isn’t all that relevant. What matters most is that you get started, and then over time, as your endurance improves, you can gradually increase the intensity.

The body accommodates to both low- and high-intensity workouts by increasing the activity of respiratory enzymes and other biochemical reactions in the muscles. Anaerobic training-like intervals and speed work are helpful if you want to improve your time or perform optimally in an event like a 10K run or a 50-mile bike ride because the training prepares your body for the specific anaerobic demands of the event (like when you have to sprint or climb a hill). This type of training, called “specificity of training,” is effective because it mimics the type of exertion experienced during the event.

On the other hand, if health and general levels of fitness are the goal, and not performance in a road race, then there’s no need to train anaerobically unless you like to push. Instead, substantial gains in health and fitness can be accrued by aerobic training between 40% and 85% of HRmax. Volumes of research prove this.

A traditional method of aerobic training is to start at the low end of the aerobic training range, say 50% or 60%, and as training continues and the heart and muscles adapt to the challenge, the intensity is progressively increased. For example, a sedentary individual might start at 60% of HRmax and remain at that level for four weeks, and then during the fifth week increase the intensity to 65% (increases of 10% of intensity and/or duration is the standard recommendation). Again, the body accommodates to the work over time, and when higher levels of fitness are desired, the intensity needs to be increased. Training heart rate zones offer a quantifiable method of guiding workouts and determining exercise intensity.

Fat Burning vs. Cardio Mode?

Perhaps no other training “technique” is more gimmicky and misleading than the “fat burning” and “cardio” modes on the control panels of exercise equipment. They are based on the biology that at lower levels of exertion a higher percentage of fat is burned compared to carbohydrate. That’s because:

    1. Fat is denser fuel than carbohydrate (9 calories per gram vs. 4 calories). 2. It takes more oxygen to burn fat than carbohydrate because fat is denser. 3. At lower levels of exertion, you presumably breathe in and deliver more oxygen to the muscles to burn fat.

All of the above may be true given the right circumstances, but there are problems with it when it comes to real-world exercise scenarios. First off, lots of fat is burned at all intensities within the aerobic training zone. Secondly, the terminology “fat burning” and “cardio” can confuse individuals into thinking that fat is burned only during exercise in “fat burning” mode and that no fat is burned in “cardio” mode. The fact is that you burn fat during both modes. But the major problem is that the fat-burning mode is typically too slow a workout for many people to maximize benefits. In fact, at the end of a fat-burning workout, you could end up burning fewer calories and less total fat than during a cardio-mode workout. Here’s an example of what I mean.

Suppose a 150-pound moderately fit man walks on the treadmill for 60 minutes at 3.0 mph (“fat burning” mode). That’s 300 calories for a 150-pound man (a 150-pound man burns 100 calories per mile whether he walks or runs). Since this man is moderately fit, he will burn approximately 60% of the calories from fat (180 calories) and 40% from carbohydrate (120 calories).

Now let’s say the same 150-pound man walks on the treadmill for 60 minutes at 4.0 mph (“cardio” mode). That’s 400 calories burned, with approximately 50% of the calories from fat (200 calories) and 50% from carbohydrate (200 calories). The percent of fat burned may be less at 4.0 mph than 3.0 mph because the exertion is higher and so theoretically less oxygen is delivered to the muscles.

If you examine the example carefully, you will notice that at the slower fat-burning mode the man does indeed burn a higher percentage of fat compared to cardio mode (60% v. 50%), but in cardio mode, he burns more total calories (400 v. 300) and more total fat (200 calories v. 180 calories). My suggestion is to ignore the fat-burning mode (unless you want a less intense workout). You’re not going to burn more fat in this mode than in cardio mode, and it could end up being an inefficient use of your time. I suggest training as hard as you comfortably can without risking injury so that you maximize the calorie and fat burn and the overall cardiorespiratory training effect.

Calculating a Target Heart Rate Zone

I recommend the heart rate reserve method (HRR) for calculating a heart rate zone. Heart rate reserve uses the range from your resting heart rate to predicted maximum. Below is the formula and an example of the method for someone 29 years old, assuming a resting heart rate of 68 bpm and a training range of 70%. You can get other ranges if you plug in other values.

    1. 220-Age = HRmax 2. Subtract resting heart rate from HRmax = Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) 3. Multiply HRR times the percent that you want to train at 4. Add back resting heart rate

Assuming a resting heart rate of 68 bpm, 29 years old, and a 70% training range:

    1. 220 – 29 = 191 2. 191 – 68 = 123 3. 123 x .70(%) = 86 4. 86 + 68 = 154 bpm

In this example 154 beats per minute is 70% of HRmax. The American College of Sports Medicine recommends a training zone of 40/50%-85% of HRR for developing and maintaining cardiorespiratory fitness.

Errors in Predicting Maximum Heart Rate

Calculating target ranges in individuals over age 40 can be inaccurate because of errors in estimating HRmax due to considerable heart rate variability in older adults. This means that the popular equation to estimate HRmax, “220-age”, may not be accurate in individuals older than 40 years. The error is probably due to the origin of the equation which was derived from volunteers who were most likely not representative of the general population.

In an important study published in The Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2001, researchers examined data from 351 studies (18,712 subjects) and determined that the “220-age” equation underestimates maximum heart rate in older adults (the older the individual the more the error). In their conclusion, the researchers suggest the following equation to estimate HRmax in older adults:

208 – (0.7 x AGE)

Using this new equation, a 70-year-old’s predicted HRmax is 159 bpm (208 minus 49). In the original “220-age” equation, it’s 150 bpm (220 minus 70), or nine beats per minute lower. The problem with using a lower HRmax to calculate your training zone is that you end up with a training zone that might be below your actual capacity, which means that you could potentially miss out on fitness benefits. My suggestion if you are over age 40 is to try it both ways and monitor how you feel during the workouts. Stick with the workout intensity that leaves you feeling at least warm and slightly out of breath but does not put you at risk for injury. You should speak with your doctor if you have any questions about your target heart rate.

NOTE: There will not be any difference in HRmax when you factor in age 40 to the old and new equations. The difference in HRmax between the two equations only becomes significant when you factor in older ages.


Heart rate monitors are devices that measure heart rate in real time. They have grown wildly in popularity over the past 10 years partly due to the miniaturization and accuracy of computer chips. Many athletes use heart rate monitors during their workouts to determine if they are in the proper training zone. But heart rate monitors aren’t just for elite athletes. I recommend a heart rate monitor if you like gadgets or think you might like the heart rate data and real-time feedback from your body that these devices provide. The standard design is a strap with a transmitter that you wear around your chest and a wristwatch with a receiver. The chest transmitter detects your heart rate during exercise and wirelessly sends the signal to the wristwatch display for you to see. You can purchase all the bells and whistles with functions like downloading the entire workout to your computer or alarms that let you know when you go too high or too low in your training zone, or you can go minimalist and purchase the basic model that just reads your heart rate. Nike, Polar, and Timex are just three reputable companies that manufacture heart rate monitors.

Perceived Exertion

Heart rate monitoring and training zones aren’t for everyone. But don’t worry, you can still get a great workout and gain all the benefits of exercise without. All you need to do is listen to your body. You’re working out if you feel your heart pumping and you’re slightly out of breath. You can also use the Borg Scale of Perceived Exertion (RPE) to measure intensity. Simply select the number from below that best describes your level of exertion.

    6 No exertion at all 7 7.5 Extremely light 8 9 Very light 10 11 Light 12 13 Somewhat hard 14 15 Hard (heavy) 16 17 Very hard 18 19 Extremely hard 20 Maximal exertion

An exertion level from 13-14 will get you to the middle of your aerobic training zone. For more information about RPE, go to http://www.cdc.gov/nccdphp/dnpa/physical/measuring/perceived_exertion.htm.


Heart rate training zones and heart rate monitoring is:

    1. helpful for individuals who want to stay in their aerobic training zone, 2. interesting real-time feedback for individuals who like to know how their body responds to exercise, and 3. important data for athletes who want to get their intervals right.

But even if you never get hooked on the idea of a training zone, you can still get a great workout by listening to your body or using a scale like the RPE. The important point is to get out there and move no matter how you monitor your workout!

Max Heart Rate & Heart Rate Training Zones

What is heart rate training, and what are heart rate training zones?

Simply put, heart rate training consists of using your heart rate to gauge the intensity of your workouts, and aiming for different heart rate zones depending on what your fitness goals are.

Calculating Max Heart Rate

The first step to heart rate training is to calculate what your max heart rate is. A basic formula that is commonly used is to just subtract your age from 220. So by this method, if you’re 30 years old you’re max heart rate is 190 beats per minute. However, this equation does not take into account things like gender, fitness level, genetics, etc.

Over the years a number of more detailed formulas have been created, such as the Tanaka (208 – 0.7 x age) or the Gulati (206 – 0.88 x age, for women only), but they make broad generalizations as well and fall victim to many of the same variables. Additionally, other factors like temperature, altitude, hydration, and even time of day can affect your heart rate.

Every human body is different, so a better solution is to use wrist-worn heart rate monitor like WHOOP that will determine your personal max heart rate.

What Are Heart Rate Training Zones

Once you know your max heart rate, you can establish your own heart rate training zones. Below is a graphic listing the various heart rate zones and what you can accomplish by training in each. For example, if you’re exercising and your heart rate is at 50-60% of your max HR, your workout is ideal for warm ups and cool downs, or active recovery.

Heart Rate Zones Chart

Fat Burning Heart Rate

Weight loss is a common goal for many of us, and people often wonder which zone is best for burning fat. While training at 60-70% of your max HR technically burns more fat than more intense exercise (when your body shifts to burning carbohydrates instead), losing weight is actually about burning calories. You can sustain activity longer at a lower heart rate, but you’ll burn more calories when you increase your exertion.

There’s no reason to avoid training at a higher heart rate range if you’re trying to lose weight.

Aerobic Heart Rate Zone vs Anaerobic

Aerobic exercise is when your body is able to take in enough oxygen to sustain your activity level without dipping into another energy source. Working out at 70-80% of your max HR will improve your aerobic fitness level. This will allow you to build endurance and create lean muscle for things like distance running or cycling. It’s also good for your overall cardiac health.

Anaerobic exercise causes your muscles to need more energy than is provided by the oxygen you are breathing in, so they begin to break down sugars and produce lactic acid. A target heart rate of 80-90% of your max will increase your lactate threshold. This heart rate zone is often useful to improve performance in weightlifting and other non-endurance sports that require power output.

Benefits of Heart Rate Training

As a general rule, most athletes will want to train in varying zones of max heart rate at different times, both within specific workouts and from one to the next. A typical one-hour session might include 10 minutes in the 50-60% zone warming up and cooling down, 30 minutes at a sustainable pace at 60-70%, 12 minutes pushing a little more at 70-80%, 6 minutes going hard at 80-90% and 2 minutes all-out at 90-100%.

Monitoring your workout heart rate can help you avoid training too hard by knowing exactly when you’re overexerting yourself. It will also allow you to bounce back faster by ensuring you stay in the proper zone on recovery days.

Additionally, heart rate training enables you to moderate external factors like heat and humidity, or better adjust on days when you may not be fully recovered. In these cases, your standard workout may be increasing your heart rate more than usual.

Know Your Heart Rate Zones in Real Time with WHOOP

WHOOP measures your heart rate 24/7 and quantifies the strain your body takes on each day. Every morning, our recovery metric (calculated using heart rate variability, resting heart rate and sleep) tells you how prepared your body is to take on strain. And when you track your activities with the WHOOP Strain Coach, you can see in real time which heart rate training zone you’re in, so you’ll know exactly when to dial it back, or kick it up a notch.


Here are the Benefits of Training at Various Heart Rate Zones

By Dr. Ayla Donlin, Special AFS Contributor

As fitness professionals, we get plenty of questions about exercise intensity: What is the best intensity to burn fat? What is the best intensity to improve my running time? What is the best intensity for recovery?

The answers to these questions, as with most fitness questions, is going to be – it depends! Of the factors that influence the answers to these questions, fitness level and fitness goals are two of the most important.

This blog post will provide an overview of some of the general benefits of training at various intensities in terms of percentage of maximum heart rate (%MHR). We will break down %MHR into five different zones and provide general benefits of training in each zone. Based on your client’s fitness level and goals, you can suggest which zones are best for them to train in.

First, a definition of the five zones:

Zone 1: 50-59%MHR – A moderate intensity zone

Zone 2: 60-69%MHR – A moderate intensity zone

Zone 3: 70-79%MHR – A moderate to vigorous intensity zone (75%MHR and above is considered vigorous intensity)

Zone 4: 80-89%MHR – A vigorous or high intensity zone

Zone 5: 90%+MHR – A vigorous or high intensity zone

Because it can be challenging for clients to resonate with numbers and %MHR, we recommend using colors to represent each zone. MYZONE®, the wearable technology company, color-codes each zone so that clients can easily identify with intensity and feel rewarded for their effort. Below are the colors that MYZONE® uses:

Zone 1: Gray

Zone 2: Blue

Zone 3: Green

Zone 4: Yellow

Zone 5: Red

Zones 1 & 2: 50-59%MHR (Gray) and 60-69%MHR (Blue)

These are great zones for those beginning a fitness program to build an aerobic base. What does it mean to build an aerobic base? Improving our ability to take in oxygen and efficiently transport it to working muscles. Further, our working muscles are developing a greater ability to utilize oxygen to make fuel to support our exercise. Our capillary (small blood vessel) beds are expanding, and our heart and lungs are getting stronger.

We also burn fat calories efficiently in these zones. The more fit we become, the more effective we become in using fat as a fuel source. It is in these zones that we burn the highest ratio of calories from fat (as opposed to carbohydrate or protein). Please use caution in interpreting the meaning of the previous statements. The Gray and Blue zones are not the best zones for burning the MOST calories, the Yellow and Red zones are best for that. If a client’s goal is specifically weight loss related, total calories burned will be the most important factor; however, the Gray and Blue zones will be effective for burning fat calories specifically, so integrating two to three workouts per week in these zones is spot on.

The Gray and Blue zones are good active recovery zones for intermediate and advanced exercisers. Clients should target these zones in between high intensity cardio or resistance training days. These zones are also a good target if your client wants to go for a longer duration workout.

Zone 3: 70-79%MHR (Green)

It is in the Green zone that newer exercisers start to expand aerobic capacity to a greater extent and elevate anaerobic threshold. Anaerobic threshold is the level of oxygen consumption above which aerobic metabolism is supplemented by anaerobic metabolism, causing a sustained increase in lactate and metabolic acidosis. By elevating our anaerobic threshold, we are increasing our ability to work at higher intensities for longer periods without fatigue.

The Green zone is a good recovery zone for intermediate or advanced exercisers during tempo and interval training. Tempo training consists of three to five minute bouts of higher intensity work (Yellow and/or Red zones) followed by three to five minutes of moderate intensity recovery (Green zone). Similarly, interval training consists of 15 seconds to 120 seconds of work (Yellow or Red) followed by 15 seconds to 120 seconds of recovery (Green if possible).

The Green zone is also a good target for a sustained effort (20 minutes or more) for intermediate and advanced exercisers.

The more fit we become, the more effective we become in using fat as a fuel source.

Zones 4 & 5: 80-89%MHR (Yellow) and 90%+MHR (Red)

The Yellow and Red zones are short duration zones for new exercisers. Your clients will probably fatigue fairly quickly in these zones at the beginning of their training experience. As your clients’ fitness levels build, they will be able to sustain longer periods of time in the Yellow and Red zones. Perhaps start with short intervals during which your clients push into the Yellow and/or Red zones and then complete a longer recovery in the Green or Blue zones.

For intermediate and advanced exercisers, the Yellow and Red zones are great for challenging fitness level. Clients can now handle slightly longer durations in these high intensity zones. Challenge your clients to hold the Yellow zone for 10 minutes or more at a time.

Another approach is to train high intensity intervals during which your clients aim for Yellow and Red during the work phase and Green during recovery. You can start to lengthen the work-to-recovery ratio of your clients’ intervals. For example, have your clients push up into the Yellow or Red for 60 seconds, and provide them with only 30 seconds of recovery (a 2-to-1 work-to-recovery ratio).

Training in the Yellow and Red zones is likely to increase your client’s maximal oxygen uptake (their ability to take in and use oxygen efficiently) and expand their ability to work at submaximal exercise intensities for longer periods of time.

As mentioned previously, the Yellow and Red zones are major calorie burning zones – and not just during your client’s workout, but afterward as well. You may have heard of the term post-exercise oxygen consumption (EPOC). This refers to the additional oxygen consumption necessary to recover from a high intensity workout – your client will continue to expend calories at a higher rate as they recover from their session than they would generally burn at rest.

Now that you are familiar with some of the general benefits of training at various exercise intensities, use your client’s fitness level and fitness goals to determine the zones that are most appropriate for them.

Dr. Ayla Donlin is the director of the LifeFit Center @ The Beach, a health and fitness facility and educational laboratory on the campus of Long Beach State University (LBSU). Ayla’s passions are fitness, education, and well-being, and as a result, she holds multiple positions within higher education and the fitness industry.

Ayla is a lecturer in the kinesiology department at LBSU and has been teaching courses since 2008 in the fitness and sport studies options. She is also the chair of the Exercise is Medicine on Campus (EIMOC) Leadership Team at LBSU and advises the EIMOC student organization.

Ayla has been active in the fitness industry for over 12 years as a group fitness instructor, personal trainer, group fitness director, master trainer, and health club general manager. She is currently an American College of Sports Medicine (ACSM) certified personal trainer and an Exercise is Medicine® credentialed fitness professional.

Ayla also serves as a consultant within the fitness industry. She has been working with Johnny G. since 2007 as a Master Instructor for Krankcycle® and became a Master Instructor for IN-TRINITY® in 2015. Ayla is also a Master Trainer for MYZONE®, a wearable physical activity tracker that rewards effort. She creates educational content for the MYZONE® blog, Podcast, and learning management system.

As a passion and hobby, Ayla has organized, led, and participated in over 100 hours of Spin-a-thon/Krank-a-thon fundraisers benefitting various organizations like the Challenged Athletes Foundation.

Summit Medical Group Web Site

Exercising Effectively

Getting the Most From Your Workout

Are you exercising and seeing few or no changes in your weight and fitness? Then it’s possible you aren’t exercising wisely enough to get the results you want. The good news is, working out at the right intensity can yield noticeable and relatively quick results when you are careful about the number of calories you eat relative to your exercise.

Exercise and Heart Rate

To be effective, exercise should be at the right intensity (about 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate) for your age and fitness. In other words, it should not be too easy or too hard. You also must exercise long enough (20 minutes or more in your zone) to burn enough calories to lose weight. To achieve both weight loss and increase your fitness, it’s best to exercise 45 to 60 minutes 5 times per week.

If you are a man, you can find your recommended maximum (or target) heart rate range for exercise by subtracting your age from the number 220. If you are age 30, for example, your maximum heart rate should be 220 – 30 or 190 beats per minute, if you are age 40, your maximum heart rate should be 220 – 40, or 180 beats per minute. If you are a woman, you should subtract your age from 226.

Because each person is unique, the recommended maximum heart rate for your age is approximate. For example, maximum heart rates for women tend to be higher compared with men. Other factors that influence your maximum recommended heart rate include your overall fitness and the activity you choose. If you’re unsure what your target heart rate should be for working out, ask your doctor. He or she can help determine a safe and effective rate for you.

The easiest and most accurate way to gauge the intensity of your work out is to use a heart rate monitor. If you don’t have a monitor, you can calculate your maximum heart rate by finding your pulse at your neck or wrist after you’ve been exercising for at least 5 minutes. Using a watch with a second hand, count the number of beats in 6 seconds. Multiply that number by 10 and compare it to your recommended maximum heart rate range. For example, if you count 12 beats in 6 seconds, your heart rate is 120 beats per minute. The next step is to use percentages of your maximum heart rate and exercise within certain zones to get the most from your workout.

Warm up and cool down at the start and end of each workout and:

  • If you’re new to exercise, begin working out at low or moderate intensity. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout to ensure that you’ll stick with your program
  • If your fitness is average and you’d like to do more, be sure to train for 20 minutes or more at high intensity for best results

Training Zones

Depending on your level of fitness, each training zone offers benefits. Whatever your level of fitness, any consistent increase in your activity 3 to 5 days a week will help you begin achieving your goals.

  • Low-intensity Warm Up or Recovery Zone: 50% to 60% of your maximum heart rate
    The safest zone for people just starting to work out, the healthy heart zone is a perfect warm up for experienced exercisers. Research shows that workouts in this zone help burn fat, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and decrease the risk of certain diseases. There is little risk of injury in this zone
  • Moderate-intensity Fat-burning or Fitness Zone: 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate
    This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but it burns more calories because it is more intense
  • High-intensity Endurance or Aerobic Zone: 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate
    This zone improves cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. It is especially helpful if you are training for endurance

People who work out at 80% to 90% of their maximum heart rate (in the performance or anaerobic zones) are usually very fit and use these zones to further improve their cardiovascular strength, respiratory fitness, and endurance. Although working out in the performance/anaerobic or maximum expenditure/red line zones (90% to 100% of their maximum heart rate) has advantages, it’s unnecessary for getting many benefits for good health. Research shows that exercising at moderate or high intensity most days of the week for a half hour or more helps with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol as well as improving fitness. When it’s combined with a reasonable diet that limits calories, moderate and high intensity exercise can help you lose unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight.

Talk with your doctor before beginning
or intensifying your exercise program!

Want to know more about exercising to maximize your health and weight goals?

Our physical therapists can help!
Call us today at 908-277-8936.

For a cardiovascular evaluation before beginning or intensifying your exercise program,
please call Summit Medical Group Cardiology today
at 908-908-273-4300.


After decades of research into the effects of different exercise programs, Les Mills has defined – and proved – the science behind one of the most efficient approaches to cardio exercise.

Cardio Peak Training is a specific blend of high-intensity and steady-state training that gives you the best of both worlds – the cardio endurance that you get from steady-state training and the transformative fat burning benefits of high-intensity interval training.

How Cardio Peak Training works

During steady-state cardio such as running, rowing or walking you reach a certain level of exertion and maintain that for the duration of the workout. On the other hand, if you’re doing a HIIT workout you’ll reach intensity peaks pushing 95 percent plus of your maximum heart rate, followed by periods of complete rest and recovery. A Cardio Peak Training workout is a hybrid of the two; it maintains your heart rate at an aerobic training base, between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate, interspersed with peaks of intensity pushing you to 85 to 90 percent of your max. After a peak you only drop back to your aerobic base.

The advantages of Cardio Peak Training are highlighted in a 2015 study by Loughborough University. This study analyzed the effectiveness of multi-peak cardio training by following a group of exercisers completing three Cardio Peak Training cycle workouts a week for eight weeks. Researchers measured glucose tolerance, cholesterol, cardio fitness and body composition before and after the trial.

After just eight weeks cardio fitness improved, with an 11.8 percent increase in VO2 (the most discussed measure of cardio fitness) and a 7 percent reduction in (systolic) blood pressure. Body composition also improved considerably, with a 13.8 percent reduction in body fat and a 3 percent reduction in waist circumference. There was also a total cholesterol reduction of 13 percent.

The study’s authors concluded the varying levels of intensity and multiple cardio peaks were an important factor in maximizing muscle adaptations and producing comprehensive health benefits.

Perhaps even more significant was the compliance rate by participants of 95 percent. Bryce Hastings, Les Mills Head of Research, says this was exceptional, given they were chosen specifically for their sedentary lifestyles. “For those new to exercise, three 45-minute cardio sessions a week for eight weeks is a considerable investment of not only time, but also of physical and mental effort.” He believes the 95 percent compliance rate speaks volumes about the nature of the exercise and its positive effects.

Why Cardio Peak Training is the ultimate cardio go-to

If you thrive on the variety and challenge that comes from interval-based exercise Cardio Peak Training is a great option. Unlike its challenging cousin HIIT, Cardio Peak Training gives you an intense cardio fix without any risk of overtraining. Research shows that doing HIIT workouts too frequently can lead to diminishing returns (you can learn more about the best HIIT prescription here).

Cardio Peak Training is something you can safely do every day – although experts do recommend you spend just 50 percent of your training time on cardio exercise, the remaining should be strength (30 percent) and mobility (20 percent).

With a variety of workout options to choose from there is little chance of getting bored.

BODYATTACK™, BODYCOMBAT™, BODYSTEP™ and RPM are all great examples of Cardio Peak Training.

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Understanding Your Target Heart Rate

Aiming for what’s called a “target heart rate” can help you do this, says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Seth Martin, M.D., M.P.H. Think of it as the “sweet spot” between not exercising hard enough and overexerting.

What is Target Heart Rate?

Your target heart rate is a range of numbers that reflect how fast your heart should be beating when you exercise. “A higher heart rate is a good thing that leads to greater fitness,” says Johns Hopkins cardiologist Michael Blaha, M.D., M.P.H. During exercise, you can monitor heart rate and try to reach this target zone. Doctors also use target heart rate to interpret the results of a cardiac stress test.

How to Find Your Target Heart Rate

First, it helps to know your resting heart rate, Martin says. Find your pulse (inside your wrist, on the thumb side, is a good place). Then count the number of beats in a minute—that’s your resting heart rate. (Alternately, you can take your pulse for 30 seconds and double it.) The average resting heart rate is between 60 and 100, he says. The more fit you are, the lower your resting heart rate; for very fit people, it’s in the range of 40 to 50 beats per minute.

Target heart rate is generally expressed as a percentage (usually between 50 percent and 85 percent) of your maximum safe heart rate. The maximum rate is based on your age, as subtracted from 220. So for a 50-year-old, maximum heart rate is 220 minus 50, or 170 beats per minute. At a 50 percent exertion level, your target would be 50 percent of that maximum, or 85 beats per minute. At an 85 percent level of exertion, your target would be 145 beats per minute. Therefore, the target heart rate that a 50-year-old would want to aim for during exercise is 85 to 145 beats per minute.

But there’s an easier way to figure it out if you want to skip the math: Wear a fitness tracking device, or exercise on a treadmill or other machine that calculates target heart rate for you, Blaha suggests.

Heart Rate Tips to Keep in Mind

  • Start at your beginning. Before getting overly concerned about your heart rate, Martin says, it’s best to simply get moving. If you haven’t exercised much before, start where you’re comfortable (around 50 percent of maximum heart rate) and gradually exert yourself more over time.
  • Listen to your body. Your body provides other indicators of how hard it’s working that you need to consider along with heart rate. Pay attention to how hard you’re breathing or sweating, and stop if you feel very uncomfortable, Martin says. Devices recording your heart rate have been known to malfunction, for example—another reason listening to your body is important.
  • Remember that target heart rate is just a guide. “Don’t get overly fixated on numbers,” Martin says. Ideally, they just push you to work a little harder.

Heart rate exercise zone

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