How to Calculate Your Training Heart Rate Zones

A man stretching before exercising.

Heart-rate training benefits everyone, from the beginning exerciser trying to lose weight, to individuals trying to improve their cardiovascular fitness, to the highly conditioned athlete preparing for the next competition.

The key to making progress is to elevate your heart rate into the correct training zone, so your effort matches your goals.

Here are seven easy-to-follow steps that will help you calculate your ideal heart-rate training zone.

1. Calculate Your Maximum Heart Rate

The easiest way to do this is a simple paper-and-pencil calculation. Subtract your age from 220. The result is an age-predicted maximum beats per minute.

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

A second method to calculate your maximum heart rate is to have an exercise tolerance or stress test. This usually is supervised by a physician and performed in a hospital or clinical setting in three-minute stages, during which the speed and incline continue to increase in an effort to elevate your heart rate until it climbs to its highest level.

2. Determine Your Resting Heart Rate

Take your pulse before you get out of bed in the morning. Do this for several days in a row to get consistent readings.

3. Calculate Your Heart-Rate Reserve

Subtract your heart's resting rate from your maximum rate.

For example, if you are 40 years old, subtract that number from 220; your maximum rate is 180. Next, subtract your resting rate, 80 in this example. Your heart-rate reserve is 100 beats per minute.

This heart-rate reserve represents the cushion heartbeats available for exercise.

4. Calculate Your Aerobic Training Heart-Rate Range for Fat Burning

This fat-burning range will lie between 50 and 75 percent of your heart-rate reserve.

Using the example above, 50 percent of 100 beats per minute is 50. And 75 percent of 100 is 75. Next, add your resting heart rate to both numbers: 50 + 80 = 130 and 75 + 80 = 155. Your heart rate during aerobic training that will most efficiently burn fat is 130 to 155 beats per minute.

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