Determine Your Maximum Heart Rate to Maintain Safety During Exercise

Determining your maximum heart rate is very important to safety during exercise.  It is important to check and recheck your heart rate to keep yourself in the safe zone!

First, we need to determine your resting heart rate.  How do you do that?
In general, the higher your resting heart rate, the less physically fit you are, and the lower your heart rate, the more physically fit you are. (Some athletes have resting heart rates in the 40s.) One way to see if your new workout is succeeding is to check your resting heart rate over a few months. See if it has increased, decreased, or remained the same. If your workouts are effective, your resting heart rate will slowly decrease, or at least remain constant. Your body has many ways of telling you when enough is enough, and if your resting heart rate has increased, you should start listening to your body by decreasing your workout frequency or intensity.

Your resting heart rate is best measured when you first wake up in the morning, before your feet leave the sheets.

Grab a stopwatch, or a clock or watch with a second hand, then find your pulse. You can locate your pulse either in your radial artery on your wrist or at your carotid artery in your neck. Choose the spot that works best for you.

The only trick to measuring your heart rate is that you must use the correct fingers to do the measuring. Your thumb has a light pulse and can create some confusion when you are counting your beats. It's best to use your index finger and middle finger together.

After you find the beat, you need to count how many beats occur within 60 seconds. The shortcut to this method is to count the number of beats in 10 seconds, and then to multiply that number by 6. This method gives you a 60-second count.

Example: You count 7 beats in 10 seconds: 7 x 6 = 42 beats per minute.

If you have trouble finding your pulse or separating the beats in your body from the ticks of your watch, ask a friend for help. Have your friend count your pulse beats while you watch the clock or vice versa.

Learn more about heart rate basics and use these heart rate charts to help you understand and improve your overall cardio fitness. Understanding the different types of heart rates and what they represent, you can measure your overall cardio heart health.

Knowing how to measure a maximum heart rate, and understanding how a target your heart rate zone while exercising can set the stage for successful weight loss, get the maximum benefits of any exercise regime and ultimately help you to understand the overall health of your heart.

Q: What is a resting heart rate?
A: Resting heart rate is the number of beats in one minute while you are at a complete rest state. Your resting heart rate indicates your basic overall heart health and fitness level. The more conditioned your body is, the less effort it needs to make to pump blood thru your body.

Q: What is a recovery heart rate?
A: This is the heart rate your body will drop to after two minutes, after stopping an exercise session. For instance you exercised for 30 minutes and your heart rate was at 155. Two minutes after you stopped exercising, your heart rate then decreased to 95. This recovery heart rate measure helps to evaluate your overall heart fitness level. Use this measurement to compare between exercise sessions.

Q: What is a maximum heart rate?
A: A maximum heart rate (Max HR) is the highest number of beats your heart contracts during a one minute measurement. Max HR is a useful tool to measure training intensities and typically is used to measure or predict the level of exercise. It's always good to measure your Max HR while doing exercises to ensure you stay within a safe range or use it to measure if the exercise is actually working well enough to raise your heart rate to acceptable ranges and levels.

Q: How do I measure a Max HR?
A: The best method of determining your individual maximum heart rate is to be clinically tested and monitored on a treadmill. This is called a treadmill stress testing and is done by a cardiologist or certified physical therapist. Based on your age and physical condition, a formula is used to predict your Max HR. The other method is by using an age-predicted maximum heart rate formula:

WOMEN: 226 - your age = age-adjusted Max HR
MEN: 220 - your age = age-adjusted Max HR

Example: If you are a 30-year-old woman, your age-adjusted maximum heart rate is 226- 30 years = 196 bpm (beats per minute).

*note that this formula allows you to estimate your Max HR. Be sure to consult with your exercise trainer and doctors for the most effective rates that are customized to your health.

Heart Rate Chart: Babies to Adults

AGEBeats Per Minute (BPM)
Babies to Age 1100 - 160
Children ages 1-1060 - 140
Children age 10+ and adults60 - 100
Athletes:40 - 60

Target Heart Rate During Exercise

AgeMin-max Heart Rate (BPM)
15123 - 164
20120 - 160
25117 - 156
30114 - 152
35111 - 148
40108 - 144
45105 - 140
50102 - 136
5599 - 132
6096 - 128
6590 - 120
7090 - 120
7587 - 116

Q: What is your heart rate reserve?
A: The heart rate reserve is the difference between your Max HR and your Resting HR. For instance, if your Max HR is 150 bpm and your resting HR is 65, this means your heart rate reserve is 95. (150 - 65 = 95)
Q: What is a safe heart rate?
A: Your "safe heart rate" is a heart rate that is prescribed to help moderate and supervise your exercise training so that you don't over do it. This range is typically about 60% of the maximum heart rate and helps to reduce the amount of stress on the heart while gaining good effects of exercise. This is especially important if you have a heart condition or just starting an exercise regime.

Q: What is a target zone?
A: A target zone is a heart rate range that helps you maintain an intensity level while you work out. There are different target zones for different types of athletes and levels of exercise you are following. Target zones typically correspond with a specific exercise goal and helps to effectively grade if an exercise is actually working for you or overworking you.

Fitness Target Zones: Heart Rates

Exercise LevelBenefitsIntensity Level
(Max HR %)
Light ExerciseHealthy Heart
50% - 60%
Weight LossBurn Fat & Calories60% - 70%
Base - AerobicIncrease stamina & endurance70% - 80%
ConditioningFitness conditioning, muscle building, and athletic training80% - 90%
Athletic - eliteAthletic training and endurance90% - 100%

Select which level represents your physical condition and then locate the Heart Rate Zones for your age from the Target Heart Rate Chart. For Example: if you want to burn fat to lose weight, select your favorite exercise and keep within 60-70% of your maximum heart rate, based on your age, for at least 30 minutes a day, 3 times a week.


You can always buy yourself a heart rate monitor that will keep you on track during your workouts and help to keep you in the zone! 

I hope you find this helpful!  When doing intense workouts like P90X, TurboFire and Insanity it is key to your health to make sure you are staying within a safe range!


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