New Guidelines for Tracking Your Max Heart Rate

New Guidelines for Tracking Your Max Heart Rate

For some folks Metallica is what it takes to get their heart racing, for others Tom Jones does the trick. But when you’re working out, you want to keep your heartbeat pumping at about 50 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate (MHR). That won’t overburden your cardiovascular system. But what is your MHR exactly?

Related: What factors can affect my maximum heart rate?

For years the rule has been MHR equals 220 minus your age. And working out in your target heart rate range -- 50-75 percent of MHR -- provides the intensity and safety you need to build endurance, strength and aerobic capacity. (We like 80 percent or higher for 20 minutes, three times a week if your doctor agrees.)

One recent study discovered that the old formula could underestimate your MHR by up to 40 beats per minute if you’re 65 or older. Another study presented at this spring’s American College of Cardiology annual scientific sessions looked at 25,000 stress tests and discovered older men and women’s MHR are distinctly different. Women ages 40 to 89 can find their MHR by 200 minus 67 percent of their age; in men age 40-89, it’s 216 minus 93 percent of their age.

Related: How intensely should I work out?

These new formulas will help you determine your target heart rate. But if you’re less number driven, stick with this formula: low intensity workouts feel – well -- easy; moderate intensity (what most of you are aiming for) means you break a sweat, but you can talk comfortably and sustain your effort; high intensity is when you’re really sweating (that’s 80 percent or higher MHR for 20 minutes) and not talking much. Any way you get there is maximum great!

Related: How to Gauge Workout Intensity Without a Heart Rate Monitor

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