Maximum Heart Rate

How to Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate

Group exercise and rehabilitation class.
Your PT can teach to you measure your maximum heart rate. Getty Images

Planning on starting an endurance training program? How do you know what intensity you should be working out at? How do you know you are working at the right intensity and exercise level for your body? A good place to start is to calculate your maximum heart rate.

To find your maximum heart rate, take your age and subtract it from 220.

Maximum Heart Rate = 220 - Age

So, if you are 50 years old, your maximum heart rate should be 170 beats per minute.

But you should not be exercising at a level that causes your heart rate to be 170 beats per minute. That would be too much for your heart, and there is no way you would be able to maintain that level of exercise intensity. So, where do we go from here, once you have your maximum heart rate figured out?

It is recommended that one should work out at 55 - 90% of maximum heart rate. So, to figure out what intensity is right for you, chose what percentage of intensity you should work out at and calculate your target heart rate during exercise from your maximum heart rate.

Target Heart Rate = Maximum Heart Rate X ( 55% - 90%)

Beginners should work at the low end of this recommendation and increase intensity as appropriate. Thus a good target heart rate for a beginner should be about 60% of the maximum heart rate.

Thus for a 45 year old person just starting an exercise program the appropriate target heart rate during exercise should be.


220 - 45(age) = 175 beats per minute maximum Heart Rate
175 X 60% = 105 beats per minute would be your target heart rate during exercise

Remember, however, to consult your physician before starting an exercise program.

If you have had a cardiac event like a heart attack or open heart surgery, you may benefit from a course of cardiac rehab.

During this, your physical therapist will work with you to help improve the way your heart functions so you can get back to your normal activities. One of the goals of cardiac rehab is to teach you to make lifestyle changes to keep your heart healthy and to prevent future cardiac episodes. Learning to calculate your maximum and target heart rate is one thing you can to do self-monitor your activity and exercise levels.

Are there other ways to calculate activity and exercise intensity? There sure are! Here are other ways, besides maximum heart rate and target heart rate, that you can use to monitor your activity level:

  • The talk test: if you cannot talk during exercise, you are going at it too vigorously.
  • The rating of perceived exertion (RPE): this is a 10 point scale that you use to measure difficulty of a task.
  • The Bog Scale: this is a scale between 6 and 20 to measure your perceived exercise intensity level.

Your physical therapist can teach you different ways to measure your exercise intensity level.

Learning to measure your maximum heart rate and your target heart rate can be an important component of your cardiac rehab program.

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