Understanding what your target heart rate during exercise should be will make it easier to get the maximum benefits from your workout routine. While pushing yourself too hard can cause serious injury, failing to push yourself hard enough will make it difficult to lose weight or get in shape. Staying within the zone of your target heart rate, also known as your training heart rate, will make your workout as effective as possible.
The first step in calculating your target heart rate is to find your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age. For example, if you are 45, your maximum heart rate is 175 beats per minute. However, you should keep in mind that some medications for high blood pressure can affect your heart rate. If you're currently being treated for high blood pressure, ask your physician if you need to work with different numbers for your maximum heart rate.
Your target heart rate should be between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Using the example of a 45 year old with a maximum heart rate of 175 beats per minute, this would indicate a target heart rate of between 88 and 149 beats per minute. The lower end of the target rate zone is most appropriate for those who are just beginning a regular exercise routine. Once you're accustomed to daily exercise, however, you should be able to exercise comfortably at 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Exercise at above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate is generally only recommended for serious competitive athletes.
A heart rate monitor is the most accurate method of measuring your heart rate, but you can also try placing your index finger on the carotid artery. This is located on the side of your neck between the jaw line and the middle of your collar bone. Count the beats for 60 seconds or count for six seconds before adding a zero at the end. Use a light, but firm, pressure for the most accurate count.
If you don't have time to take your target heart rate, or you're not sure you're measuring correctly, there is an alternative approach to monitor if your workout is vigorous enough. If you can carry on a conversation while exercising, you're probably in the target heart rate zone. If you can sing while exercising, you're probably not working hard enough. If you're having trouble breathing, you're working much too hard.