Heart rate while exercising

Updated May 10, 2017

Because exercising too vigorously increases a person's risk for injury, health professionals emphasise the importance of pacing. Assessing your maximum heart rate and target heart rate will help you assess your initial level of fitness, maximise each workout and monitor your fitness progress.


Maximum heart rate refers to the highest heart rate a person can achieve at greatest exertion, according to The Cleveland Clinic. Predicted maximum heart rate can be calculated by subtracting age from 220. Though the heart might be able to reach a higher rate, the predicted maximum heart rate isn’t the heart rate a person should strive to reach while exercising. In fact, exercising above 85 per cent of maximum is unnecessary because such a high intensity won’t add significant benefits to an exercise and it will increase a person's orthopaedic and cardiovascular risk, according to The Cleveland Clinic.

Target Heart Rate

Exercising within a target heart rate zone offers the most benefits with the least amount of risk. A person's target heart rate should fall within 50 per cent to 85 percent of his maximum heart rate, according to the American Heart Association. For example, a 20-year-old's maximum heart rate is 200 beats per minute; his target heart rate would then be 50 per cent to 85 per cent of 200 beats per minute, or 100 to 170 beats per minute.

Gradual Progression

Those new to exercising should begin by aiming for 50 per cent of the target heart rate zone for the first few weeks to avoid overburdening the body, according to the American Heart Association. After slowly developing endurance and physical fitness, a person might be able to exercise comfortably at 75 per cent to 85 per cent of the maximum heart rate.


If someone doesn't want to measure his heart rate while exercising, the American Heart Association recommends that he monitor his level of exertion by gauging whether he can hold a conversation. He is likely not exercising too hard if he is able to talk and walk simultaneously, but he probably isn't exercising hard enough if he can sing and exercise simultaneously. On the other hand, he would probably be better off monitoring his heart rate if he engages in more vigorous exercises such as jogging, according to The Cleveland Clinic.


Some who are new to exercising might be able to exercise easily above or within the high range of the target heart rate zone. In these, cases, doctors might recommend training by using a different scale. The “Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale,” for example, calls for someone to rate his exercise intensity on a scale of 0 to 10, according to Health Services at Columbia University.

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About the Author

Christa Miller is a writing professional with expertise in massage therapy and health. Miller attended San Francisco State University to earn a Bachelor of Arts in creative writing with a minor in journalism and went on to earn an Arizona massage therapy license.