Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

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Calculating your target heart rate ("THR") is important to understand to get the most benefit from your jogging workouts.

If jogging for weight loss is your goal, than it only makes sense to use your workout time effectively. You're striving for results so make each step count. For best results, you want to stay within your heart rate "zone" to burn the most calories. So it really is important to calculate your target heart rate.

What Is Your Zone?

Okay, lets say your zone (based on your age) is 125 to 145 beats per minute (bpm). The 125 bpm suggests you're exercising at approximately 60% intensity (perhaps your walking at a brisk pace) and the 145 bpm suggests your exercising at approximately 80 percent intensity (maybe your jogging up and down the stairs to your basement for fun).

Either way, to stay within your zone your jogging speed should not allow your heart rate to fall below 125 bpm or rise above 145 bpm of your range. This type of effective jogging will help you burn calories.

How to Select Your Zone

Deciding how to select the zone you wish to exercise in depends on your fitness level. If you've been aerobically active for a period of six or more months than you can likely afford to exercise at 65% or higher. If you're just becoming active you may not want to exceed 50% to 60% of your heart rate. The more fit you are the more effectively your heart can pump blood. You don't want to injure yourself so always start out slowly and listen to your body to see how your feeling.

Figuring Out Your MHR

I should point out that figuring out your maximum heart rate ("MHR") is also important. Your MHR is the highest number of times your heart can beat in one minute. It's a base number used to find your THR for exercise (see below). On average, the adult heart beats about 60 to 100 times a minute at rest. This number can be slower for people who don't exercise at all.

  • Measuring Maximum Heart Rate

  • There are various formulas used to estimate an individual's MHR, based on age, but below I've chosen two of the recognized formulas. The most common formula encountered is:

  • MHR = 220 - age

  • This formula was devised in 1970 by Dr. William Haskell and Dr. Samuel Fox. It's the easiest formula to remember, but a 2002 study of 43 different formulae for MHR (including the one above) concluded the most accurate formula is:

  • MHR = 205.8 - (0.685 × age)

  • The above formula figures the intensity of a workout multiplied by the age of the person exercising and then subtracts the bpm to find the MHR. The formula looks like this when applied to someone age 35: 205.8 - (0.685 x 35) = 181.825.

  • I've personally seen the MHR = 220 - age formula most often, but when calculating my target heart rate, I like accurate information so I tend to go with formula number two. You decide which is best for you.

So now that we know how to find our MHR we need to understand and figure out our target heart rate.

A person's target heart rate (THR) is a desired range of heart rate reached during exercise that gives your heart and lungs the most benefit from a workout. The range varies based on one's physical condition, gender, and previous training.

Two Ways to Find Your Target Heart Rate

Below are two ways to find one's THR. The intensity of the workout is expressed as a percentage. For example, your heart rate will be higher if your working at a higher intensity (e.g., running a mile in eight minutes) versus a lower intensity such as walking a mile in thirty minutes.

You can calculate THR using a range of 50%–85% intensity. If you're new to exercise, always start out slowly to prevent injury and don't exceed 65% of your maximum heart rate to avoid overexerting yourself.

For example:

FORMULA ONE: Estimating MHR at 220:

65% intensity: (220 - (age = 40)) * 0.65 = 117 bpm

85% intensity: (220 - (age = 40)) * 0.85 = 153 bpm

FORMULA TWO: Estimating MHR at 205.8:

65% intensity: (205.8 - (age = 40)) * 0.65 = 107 bpm

85% intensity: (205.8 - (age = 40)) * 0.85 = 140 bpm

By estimating your target heart rate you can determine the most effective fat burning zone for your body. You can then monitor your heart rate either by placing your index and middle finger over your neck or wrist pulse while counting the beats. You'll need a stop watch to see when a minute has passed so that you know what your rate is and whether you're in or out of your zone. You can also purchase a heart rate monitor to quickly see where you're at in your zone.

Ultimately, the fact that you're getting off the couch and out of the house to burn some calories is most important. Simply getting out each day for regular exercise is more important than worrying too much about your heart rate zone. As you get moving regularly you can always calculate your target heart rate when you're ready or simply buy a heart rate monitor for a reasonable price from Amazon.

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