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How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate Zone


Updated June 02, 2014

Taking pulse
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images

When you're exercising in your target heart rate zone, you'll get the most benefits of your running, or other cardiovascular activity. Your target heart rate is 50-85% of your maximum heart rate. Knowing your target heart rate helps you pace properly for different types of runs, and keeps you from overexerting yourself or, on the other hand, not pushing yourself hard enough.

There are different ways to calculate your target heart rate zone, but the Karvonen Method is one of the most effective because it factors in your resting heart rate. Here's how to calculate your target heart rate zone using the Karvonen Method:

  1. Measure your resting heart rate when you first wake up. You can do this by taking your pulse for one minute while still in bed. To take your pulse, place two fingertips (not a thumb) on either the radial (on your wrist, at the base of your thumb) or carotid (neck, next to your larynx) pulse site. Take your pulse for three mornings and then average those three readings to get your average resting heart rate. Add the three readings together, and divide that number by three to get your resting heart rate, like this:

    (72 + 76 + 74) / 3= 74

  2. Next, determine your maximum heart rate. A simple formula to get your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. This is your maximum heart rate. For example, the maximum heart rate for a 34-year-old would be:

    220 - 34 = 186

  3. Then, use this formula to determine your target heart rate:

    Target Heart Rate = [(Maximum Heart Rate – Resting Heart Rate) × %Intensity] + Resting Heart Rate

    So, using the example above, here's how to calculate the target heart zone for a 34-year-old who has a Maximum Heart Rate of 186 and a Resting Heart Rate of 74:

    For a 50% Target Heart Rate: [(186 − 74) × 0.50] + 74 = 130 bpm
    For a 85% Target Heart Rate: [(186 − 74) × 0.85] + 74 = 169 bpm

    So the target rate heart zone would be 130-169 bpm.
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