Calculating Heart Rate for Exercise

Posted on: March 29, 2016
Tags: Physical fitness, Newsletters,

How to Calculate Your Heart Rate for Exercise Purposes

Why recreate something when the original is correct and easy to follow? We couldn’t think of a reason, so here is what we found on the web. The directions are easy to follow and easy to do. The original blog was posted in Cafewell in November, 2014.

The following is taken word-for-word from, blogs from Jake DeWalt. He is a Health Coach, Certified Personal Trainer, Certified Performance Enhancement Specialist, and Certified Fitness Nutrition Specialist

Exercising within the appropriate zones can benefit everyone, from the beginning exerciser trying to lose weight or improve their cardiovascular fitness, to the highly conditioned athlete preparing for their next competition. The key to making heart rate training work is to increase (or occasionally decrease) your heart rate into the correct training zone, so your effort matches your goals. 

Since heart rate training zones are specific for each individual person, it’s necessary to do a little bit of setup work.

1. Calculate your maximum heart rate
This first step is a simple! Subtract your age from 220. The result is an age-predicted maximum heart rate beats per minute. Example: If you are 36 years old, subtract 36 from 220 = 184. You now know that your maximum heart rate is 184 beats per minute. 

** This method does not take into account your fitness level or inherited genes that can make your true maximum heart rate 10 to 20 beats per minute higher or lower than the age-predicted number. 

2. Determine your resting heart rate: 
Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. 

Grab a watch and find your pulse. You can locate your pulse either in your radial artery on your wrist or at your carotid artery in your neck. Choose the spot that works best for you. The only trick to measuring your heart rate is that you must use the correct fingers to do the measuring. Your thumb has a light pulse and can create some confusion when you are counting beats. It's best to use your index finger and middle finger together. After you find the beat, you need to count how many beats occur within 60 seconds. The shortcut to this method is to count the number of beats in 30 seconds and multiply that number by 2. This method gives you a 60-second count. Example: You count 23 beats in 30 seconds: 23 x 2 = 46 beats per minute. Do this for several days in a row to ensure you get consistent readings. 

** In general, the lower your resting heart rate, the more physically fit you are. Some athletes have resting heart rates in the 40s. One way to see if your new workout is succeeding is to check your resting heart rate over a few months. See if it has decreased, remained the same, or increased. 

3. Calculate your heart-rate reserve: 
Subtract your heart’s resting rate from your maximum rate. 

Using our example, in step one we determined that a 36 year olds maximum heart rate is 184. Next, subtract the resting heart rate (in step two we determined this to be 46). 184 – 46 = 138 beats per minute. This heart-rate reserve (138) represents the heartbeats available for exercise, or the difference between your maximum heart rate and your resting heart rate. 

4. Calculate your aerobic heart rate training zone for fat burning: 
This fat-burning zone will lie between 50 and 75% of your heart rate reserve. 

To calculate this, continuing with our 36-year-old example, we determine that 50% of 138 beats per minute is 69. And 75% of 138 is 104. Next, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 69 + 46 = 115 and 104 + 46 = 150. 

What this means is the example person will burn fat for fuel most efficiently when his or her heart rate is between 115 and 150 beats per minute. 

5. Calculate your aerobic heart rate training zone for enhanced fitness
The range required to improve aerobic endurance, between 75 and 85% of your heart rate reserve, is higher than that needed for fat burning. 

Again, using the example, 75% of the heart rate reserve of 138 is 104, and 85% is 117. 
Again, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 104 + 46 = 150 and 117 + 46 = 163. 

To improve his or her aerobic endurance, the person from the example would need to aim for between 150 and 163 heartbeats per minute. 

6. Calculate your aerobic-anaerobic threshold heart rate training zone: 
This range represents the upper limits of aerobic exercise, the point just before you push yourself into exhaustive anaerobic work. Exercising at this intensity is usually done to improve athletic performance. 

The range to accomplish this task lies between 85 and 90% of your heart rate reserve. Again, using the example of a person with a heart-rate reserve of 138 and following the same math process as in previous steps, the person’s aerobic-anaerobic threshold would be 163 to 170 beats per minute. 

** Be advised that operating at this intensity level will not burn body fat for fuel. 

7. Calculate your anaerobic heart rate training zone: 
Training at this level requires an all-out effort of between 90 and 100% of your heart-rate reserve. The goal here is to go as fast as you can for as long as you can. 

Using the same example from above, anything between 170 beats per minute and 184 beats per minute becomes pure anaerobic training. 

I hope you found this exercise to be interesting. Although training with the intent of maximizing effectiveness by utilizing heart rate zones may seem laborsome or too detail oriented at the beginning, I strongly suggest giving it a try. It’s motivational and encouraging knowing that the effort you’re putting in is truly in-line with the goals you’ve set out to accomplish.