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Target Heart Rate

Target Heart Rate Target Heart Rate is something I never really understood.  I’m sure you have seen people running or  working out at the gym who constantly check their pulse or look at their wrist device. Definitely the  serious fitness types.  What exactly they were doing?  Of course I had heard about checking your heart  rate, but I wasn’t all that clear on why is was important. Real life finally helped me understand the  concept better.  I had asked my husband why I ran out of breath doing more exerting activities, even  though I walked on the treadmill regularly.  My husband, who is a Certified Personal Trainer, kindly  advised me that the leisurely strolls I was taking on the treadmill were not getting me to a high enough  level of exertion. He advised that to increase my stamina and physical capability, I had to work within my  target heart rate zone, and gradually build it up to an optimal rate. He explained how it worked and I also did additional research at

What Does Your Target Heart Rate Do?

It helps you determine whether you are over-exercising or not exercising enough.  If your optimal heart rate is too high, you’re straining. So slow down. If it’s too low, and the intensity feels “light” or “moderate/brisk,” push yourself to exercise a little harder. During the first few weeks of working out, aim for the lowest part of your target zone (50 percent). Then, gradually build up to the higher part (85 percent). After six months or more, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

It All Starts With Your Resting Heart Rate:

  1. Before you learn how to calculate and monitor your target training heart rate, you have to know your resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute while it’s at rest.
  2. It’s best to check it in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed. The average resting heart rate is 60-80 beats per minute, but it’s usually lower for physically fit people.  It also rises with age.

How to Calculate Target Heart Rate:

While there may be more complicated ways to calculate target heart rate, we are going to use the easiest way.   Estimate your maximum heart rate by using this formula:  220 minus your age.  So if I am 57, my target heart rate would be 220-57 = 163.  As you exercise, periodically do the following:

  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
  • Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.
  • Count your pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to find your beats per minute. You want to stay between 50% and 85% percent of your maximum heart rate. This range is your target heart rate.

What’s important to remember is that if your target heart rate is too high, you are straining, which is not good for you.  If it is too low, you are not getting the optimum benefit from your exercise. Hope this helps!

Chief Boomer Sue at


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