How to calculate exercise heart rate

Written by kathrine cole
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How to calculate exercise heart rate
Pick up your pace to reach your target heart rate during high-intensity runs. (run image by Byron Moore from

Heart rate training uses calculations to set a target intensity range for your workouts. By monitoring your heart rate with these calculations, you'll know if you're working hard enough, or too hard, during your run. While not the only training tool, your heart rate monitors your efforts, keeping you on target like a running coach.

Maximum heart rate

Your maximum heart rate represents the heart rate you could reach during an intense workout. While it's possible to get your heart to beat this fast, you want to keep your pulse rate lower. You will not be able to sustain a workout at this high intensity and it could stress your heart. To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

Maximum heart rate percentage

Your maximum heart rate percentage is the percentage range of your maximum heart rate. You will choose your target heart rate out of this percentage based on how intense you want to workout. An example range is between 50 and 85 percent. You may choose to work at 50 percent of your maximum heart rate on a recovery day, and at 85 percent on a day of hill runs.

Target heart rate

Your target heart rate is your actual pulse rate based on the maximum heart rate percentage that you choose for your workout. Calculate your target heart rate by multiplying your maximum heart rate percentage by your maximum heart rate. For example, if your maximum heart rate is 190 and you want to workout at a moderate pace of 65 percent of your maximum, multiply 0.65 by 190. Your target heart rate would be 124 beats per minute.

Heart rate monitors

Heart rate monitors allow you to check your heart rate during your workouts without stopping to take your pulse. A sensor wraps around your chest and detects the electrical signal from your heart. This signal is transferred to a wrist monitor and displayed as your heart rate.


Your heart rate is based on several factors and variables, including your age, gender and fitness level. Even weather can affect your pulse rate. While it's possible to use different equations to factor in some of these variables, your heart rate calculations may never be an exact representation of how hard you're working.

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