Target Heart Rate: Explain it to me like I’m 5

Ever wonder if your exercise routine is doing its job? Whether you aren’t seeing your desired results or are worried you’re pushing yourself too hard, there’s a quick and easy way to determine if you need to change things up: learn your target heart rate.

Doing a little bit of simple math and checking in during your workouts is the best way to determine whether you’ve hit the “sweet spot” when it comes to your level of activity during a workout.

But don’t worry – you don’t need to be a mathematician to figure it out. Here’s a simple formula to get you started:

A 30-year-old’s maximum heart rate would be 190. Keep in mind that the maximum is exactly that: the highest number of beats per minute your body can handle. That doesn’t mean that this is a number you should aspire to. In fact, there’s a safe range that you should stick to when checking your heart rate mid-workout. Make sure you’re aware of this range before you start tracking your heart rate.

That same 30-year-old should be aiming for a heart rate that falls between 95 and 142.5 beats per minute during workouts.

Why are these numbers are important? Well, the idea of minimal effective dose applies here. Just like too little medication would have little to no effect on your body (and too much would do harm), if you want results, you’ve got to make sure you’re getting the right amount of exercise. So if you’re just starting out, you’ll want to remain in the lower range initially. If you’ve been working out for a while, or if you’re a fitness buff, aim for the higher end.

 

Think of your heart like any other muscle: underwork it, and it won’t get stronger.

Overwork it, and you could injure it.

(Source: Republic Fitness)

 

Now that you’re aware of your target heart rate (and your safe range), it’s time to find out if your numbers are working for you. At your next workout, check your pulse and start counting! If stopping for a full minute mid workout feels like an unwanted interruption, you can still get the number you need by simply counting the number of beats in a 10-second interval, and then multiplying it by 6.

If all this talk of numbers is bringing you back to high school math class you may want to forego the arithmetic and check out this handy table to get an age-based estimate instead. Or consider purchasing a wearable tracking device. Keep in mind that these devices can malfunction, so make sure to get a reliable one so you are tracking as accurately as possible. Make sure to trust your body and take signs of overexertion seriously: if you can barely catch your breath or if you’re sweating profusely, you may want to manually check your heart rate and tone things down a little.

Want to just not think about it and let someone else sweat these details?  Find a personal trainer here.

 

 

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