Interactive wellness education exclusively for Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk students

Interactive wellness education exclusively for Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk students

Interactive wellness education exclusively for Gallagher Student Health & Special Risk students

Target Heart Rate

Calculators and Tools
Body Mass Index One quick number to assess body composition.
Daily Energy Needs How much energy do you need each day?
Energy Required for Different Activities Want to burn some energy?
Yearly Gain / Loss Estimator Little changes add up over 365 days.
Target Heart Rate Make your exercise more efficient.

Maximum Heart Rate and target heart rates for exercise (Readers Digest)

Perhaps you would like to add regular cardiovascular exercise to your current lifestyle or have already started a training plan. The type of training, length of time you train, and intensity of training are all important for reaching your fitness goals such as weight loss or greater stamina. How are you monitoring your exercise intensity? The intensity of physical activity, or how hard your body is working, is typically categorized as light, moderate, or vigorous based on the amount of effort a person spends in performing the activity. Training at a percentage of your maximum heart rate is an easy and effective way to monitor your exercise intensity.

During exercise, the body uses more oxygen than at rest. To provide additional oxygen, the heart rate must increase. Heart rate is measured by the number of heart beats per minute. The maximum heart rate is the fastest your heart can beat in one minute. Training intensities are based on a percentage of maximum heart rate.

An easy formula to estimate your maximum heart rate is 220 - age. Your estimated maximum heart rate can then be multiplied by the following percentages to identify training intensity zones. Exercising in different training zones results in different benefits. For example, at 60% to 70% of maximum heart rate, fat stores are the primary source of energy.

Standard Training Intensity Zones

50-60% maximum heart rate = recovery or warm up
60-70% maximum heart rate = fat burning
70-80% maximum heart rate = endurance training
80-90% maximum heart rate = intense endurance training
90-100% maximum heart rate = racing
Calculate Target Heart Rate


Result (Target Heart Rate):


Using this maximum heart rate, your standard training intensity zones are:

- Recovery or Warm Up
- Fat Burning
- Endurance Training
- Intense Endurance Training
- Racing

If you are using maximum heart rate estimations and heart rate training zones in your fitness activities, we encourage you to click on the Learn More! button, which contains information on the limitations of estimation methods and other formulas for calculating maximum heart rates.

Learn More

Methods for calculating maximum heart rates.

Monitoring exercise intensity is essential to avoid injury and overtraining, and to achieve the greatest training effect from each training session. Exercise intensity is the amount of effort or exertion expended during the duration of exercise. Heart rate is a measure of cardiac activity expressed as number of beats per minute. Heart rate monitoring is a way to assess health and the exercise response, determine recovery, and prescribe exercise intensities. There are various ways to determine one's maximum heart rate (mHR). These include a VO2max with a graded exercise test and also some equations which are discussed below.

The VO2max Test:

A maximal exercise test (VO2max ) requires the subject to exercise against increasing intensities until they stop due to exhaustion. Most VO2max tests are conducted on a treadmill. The exercise protocol includes consistant stages of approximately three minutes in duration. With each stage there is an increase in speed and/or incline. If the test is conducted on a bicycle, there is a standardized increase in watts with every stage. These tests can be performed on a treadmill, cycle ergometer, or an arm crank to focus on the type of exercise the individual typically uses for training. At least two of the following three criteria must be satisfied in order for the test to be considered a valid maximal exercise test: 1) achieve a heart rate no more than 15 beats per minute (bpm) below age-predicted maximum heart rate (HRmax = 220 - age), 2) respiratory exchange ratio (RER, the volume of carbon dioxide expired per minute divided by the volume of oxygen consumed per minute) = 1.1, and 3) oxygen consumption levels off despite an increase in work. The heart rate achieved on the highest completed stage is the maximal heart rate.

The Age Predicted Maximum Heart Rate Equation:

The age predicted maximum heart rate equation (220 - age) was developed by Dr. William Haskell and Dr. Samuel Fox in 19701. They wanted to examine how strenuously heart patients could exercise. Using heart rate data from other research studies, they plotted the average maximum heart rates onto a graph and estimated a linear best fit which came out to 215.4 - age (0.9147). The 220-age formula was the closest estimate to their findings. A lingering question regarding this formula has to do with the fact that it was created using patients with heart conditions, as opposed to active, disease-free test subjects.

The Karvonen Method:

Another method for estimating maximum heart rate is the Karvonen Method, also known as heart rate reserve2. The difference between resting heart rate (rHR) and maximum heart rate (mHR) reflects the "reserve" of the capacity of the heart for increasing heart rate and stroke volume. The formula to calculate one's training heart rate also includes the percentage training intensity (%Tint): The training heart rate THR = [(mHR - rHR) x %Tint] + rHR

The Tanaka, Monahan and Seals Method:

Researchers Tanaka, Monahan, and Seals3 developed a generalized equation for predicting maximum heart rate in healthy adults. It is based on broad age and fitness-level ranges. A meta-analysis of 351 studies was conducted involving 18,712 subjects. This information was cross-validated in 514 healthy subjects. Their formula is as follows: mHR = 208 - 0.7 (Age).

The Inbar and Associates Method:

Inbar and associates4 examined normal cardiopulmonary responses during progressive incremental treadmill exercise until volitional maximum. There were 1,424 healthy men, age 20 - 70 years who participated. Most cardiopulmonary responses were age-affected. It was therefore concluded that a prediction equation should be standardized for age decades. Their formula is as follows: mHR = 205.8 - 0.685 (age).

There are at least four methods to estimate maximum heart rate. The lack of one universally accepted method for maximum heart rate calculation may lead to inappropriate exercise intensities, injury, lack of results, and drop out. The most accurate general equation is by Inbar and associates.

In brief, the first step in using maximum heart rate and training zones is to identify what results you want from exercise. For example, the type and duration of exercise to help with weight loss will be different from exercise used for sports training. And, above all, effort should be perceived as manageable and comfortable.


1. Robergs RA, Landwehr R. The surprising history of the "Hrmax = 220-age" equations. Journal of Exercise Physiology Online; 2002, 5(2):1-10.

2. Karvonen MJ, Kentala E, Mustala O. The effects of training on heart rate: a longitudinal study. Annals of Medical and Experimental Biological Fenn; 1957; 35:307.

3. Tanaka H, Monohan, KG, Seals DS. Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited. Journal of the American College of Cardiology; 2001, 37(1):153-156.

4. Inbar O, Oten A, Scheinowitz M, Rotstein A, Dlin R, Casaburi R. Normal cardiopulmonary responses during incremental exercise in 20-70 yr old men. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise; 1994, 26(5): 538-546.

•    © Copyright 2005-2014 Basix, LLC. All rights reserved.