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What Is Your Target Heart Rate During Exercise?

Target heart rates are the most popular method of ensuring individuals achieve the most out of their workouts. They became popular in the late 1960s after two doctors developed a formula for predicting maximum heart rates and based cardiovascular rehabilitation programs on the maximum heart rate.

Target heart rates can be found on cardiovascular equipment and can be taken on the machines or with heart rate monitors. Target heart rates provide individuals with numerous benefits and the “zones” chosen should depend on your goals.


Heart Rate During Exercise



Doctor Bill Haskell and Doctor Sam Fox developed the “220 minus age” formula for predicting maximum heart rates in the late 1960s. The equation took the number 220 and subtracted a person’s age from that number to estimate an individual’s maximum heart rate.

The formula was originally designed to find a maximum heart rate for individuals who had suffered from a heart attack or stroke and cardiovascular rehabilitation programs were designed on percentages of the maximum heart rate. As the rehabilitation program became widely accepted, the target heart rate evolution began.



Treadmills, elliptical machines and stationary bikes project target heart rates for individuals of all ages. The “zones” are typically broken down into a fat-burning zone, a cardiovascular zone, and a performance zone.

In terms of effort, the fat-burning zone is easy, the cardiovascular zone is medium effort and the performance zone is nearly maximum effort. Each of these zones can be used for weight loss purposes.
The fat-burning zone burns most of the calories from fat and not glucose (sugar). The cardiovascular zone burns more total calories than the fat-burning zone and a good percentage of those calories are from fat. The performance zone will not burn a large percentage of calories from fat, but will burn a great deal more calories than the fat- burning or cardiovascular zones.



While the posted heart rate zones may not be accurate for many individuals, target heart rate zones provide a safe workout. The zones are technically accurate, as users will burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the fat-burning zone and more glucose (sugar) in the other zones.

Exercising consistently is more important than finding the perfect target heart rate during exercise.



To ensure you are in the proper zone during cardiovascular exercise, you need to know your heart rate. Most cardiovascular machines have sensors that read your heart rate.

Heart rate monitors will work on machines or when exercising outdoors. The least accurate of all methods is to take the pulse manually, but with no other options, you do what you can.


Expert Insight

While it may not be the most accurate method of finding target heart rates, the “220 minus age” method is the easiest and most readily available.

The fat-burning zone ranges from 50% to 70% of maximum heart rate.

The cardiovascular zone ranges from around 71% to 90% of maximum heart rate. Performance zones begin at 91% and reach up to maximum effort, or 100%.

General recommendations are to exercise 30 minutes per day, 6 to 7 days per week. Beginners (and those returning to exercise) should walk/jog in the fat-burning zone for the first couple of weeks as the body acclimates itself to exercise.


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