How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate

Healthy Female Jogger
Female Jogger

You are trying to lose fat and you want that adipose tissue to just melt off your body.

Option #1 is High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT), which uses both anaerobic training to build muscle and elevate the metabolism, and aerobic training to burn fat and increase cardiovascular endurance. This is the option I typically recommend. However, some people are either not able to, or not willing to, even attempt HIIT training.

This then leads us to option #2: cardiovascular endurance training. While I don’t recommend it, I know people will do it, so here’s how to do it right…


How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate

You can maximize the benefits of cardiovascular exercise by keeping your heart rate at 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. This is also know as your Target Heart Rate (THR).

The most effective method of calculating your THR is the Karvonen Method as outlined below:

  1. Find your resting heart rate (RHR).

    Count your pulse as soon as you wake up in the morning while still lying in bed. I find it easiest to take the pulse for 10 seconds and multiply by 6, but you get a more accurate reading if you count for the whole 60 seconds.

    You can use your wrist or your neck to take your pulse:

    • A common way to take your pulse is the radial pulse check. To do this, you lightly touch the artery on the thumb-side of your left wrist using your index and middle fingers of your right hand.
    • Another way to take your pulse is the carotid pulse check. Do this by placing your index and middle fingers on either side of your neck about an inch below the jaw line.

    Calculate your average RHR by adding your RHR over the course of 3 mornings and divide that number by 3.

    For example: (82 + 78 + 80) / 3 = 80 beats per minute (BPM) = RHR

  2. Find your maximum heart rate (MHR).

    Start by subtracting your age from 220. This is your maximum heart rate (HRmax)

    For example: I am 31, so my HRmax is 220 – 31 = 189 BPM = HRmax

  3. Find your heart rate reserve (HRR).

    Next, subtract your RHR from your HRmax to get your heart rate resverve (HRmaxRESERVE)

    For example: 189 – 80 = 109 BPM = HRmaxRESERVE

  4. Your lower limit THR is 60% of your HRmaxRESERVE plus your RHR.

    For example: (109 * .6) + 80 = 145 BPM

  5. Your upper limit THR is 80% of your HRmaxRESERVE plus your RHR.

    For example:
    (109 * .8) + 80 = 167 BPM
  6. Your optimum THR then becomes the average of your lower limit and upper limit.

    For example: (145 + 167) / 2 = 156 = THR

    This is your optimum heart rate to maximize your body’s cardiovascular fitness through exercise. It is not the optimum heart rate to maximize fat loss.

Generally, if you can’t talk during your cardiovascular training, you are probably working out too hard.

Conversely, if you can sing a sing during exercise, you need to increase your intensity.

Get a Heart Rate Monitor

Reebok Heart Rate Monitor
Reebok Heart Rate Monitor

If you are serious about working out and increasing your cardiovascular fitness, you may want to consider purchasing a heart rate monitor for accurate readings during your workout sessions.

The best heart rate monitor I have found is the Reebox Strapless Heart Rate Monitor. This is an excellent piece of equipment that you can wear on your wrist. It is also much cheaper at $59.99 than most of the other monitors, which range from $79.95 to $345.95.

2 Responses to “How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate”

  1. Not to be a math freak, but your optimum THR is also 70% or your Reserve plus resting (the average of 60% and 80% is 70%).

    Just pointing out a shortcut….

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