Heart Month: Heart Rate and Heart Rate Zones

LYNN HENDRICKSMaximum Performance Physical Therapist

Are you exercising at the correct intensity to improve your cardiovascular health and fitness?! Here is how to make sure you are:

To start, you will want to find your maximum heart rate. A simple way is to use this formula: 220 – your age.

Now that you know your maximum heart rate, you need to determine the range you need to work in to improve your cardiovascular fitness. This will be 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. To do this, you will take the number you just got and multiply it by .60 and then multiply it by .80. This will give you that 60-80% range you want to be in.

So why 60-80%? This is considered the aerobic endurance zone. Essentially, it gets your heart/lungs working hard enough that it helps to improve your body’s efficiency to intake and distribute oxygen to the working muscles and tissues. Less than this isn’t challenging your body enough to improve its efficiency, and more than this will put high strain on your body and can’t be sustained for very long.

For overall health, it is recommended to get 150 minutes of moderate intensity aerobic exercise, so within that 60-80% zone. An easy way to think of that is to get at least 30 minutes, 5 days a week. If you are just starting out, I’d recommend working at 60% and then slowly increasing towards the 80% as you’re able to tolerate it. You can achieve that with any type of exercise you personally enjoy.

Below is a “cheat sheet” where you can find your age, then see what your target heart rate would be for each zone, and a description of each heart rate zone (yes, the two are color coordinated!)

Happy Heart Month everyone! And happy exercising!