What’s My Target Heart Rate?

As you sweat at the gym, you may have wondered what heart rate to shoot for. Maybe you’ve gone as far as using an online heart rate calculator, or you’ve scanned the fading, peeling heart rate chart posted in the back corner of the gym (you know the one). According to the New York Times, if you’ve used these resources to see how hard your heart should be pounding, you might want to rethink your strategy. These calculators and charts can be based on decades-old formulas, and tend to overestimate or underestimate a person’s target heart rate. This means that if you stick to a predetermined number, instead of paying close attention to your personal needs and abilities, you’re likely to either push yourself too hard, or not hard enough.

The right approach is, as always, to consult a doctor about the best way to assess your individual limits and goals. A doctor can administer a stress test by monitoring your heart during physical activity to determine your exact maximum heart rate. Based on that maximum, you can determine a particular heart rate (say, 80% of your maximum) to sustain while exercising. Alternatively, you can rate your workouts on a scale from one to ten—ten being the absolute most exertion you can muster. From there, you can shoot for workouts that are a seven or an eight—which would be comparable to 70% or 80% of your maximum heart rate. Of course, discuss your chosen heart rate or level with your healthcare practitioner first.

Source: New York Times

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