Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

You hear it all around the gym, especially during your first workout orientation, but what does the phrase “target heart rate range” really mean? Additionally, how can you use your individualized target heart rate range to your advantage the next time you perform a cardiovascular workout routine.

The definition of target heart rate is simply a “goal” that you should aim at reaching when doing cardiovascular exercises in order is that you get the most out of your workout.

There are many ways to determine your target heart rate, but the easiest method is by using a percentage of maximal heart rate:

  • First you must subtract your age from 220, giving you your estimated heart rate maximum
  • Then multiply this number by 55 and 85 percent, or a specific range you have in mind

For example a 45 year old male would calculate his heart rate as follows:


175 x .55= 96

175 x .85= 149

So this individual’s target heart rate would be in the range of 96 to 149 beats per minute.

The second slightly more complicated way is by using the Karvonen Method.

  • Take your resting heart rate one morning as soon as you wake up naturally. By palpating the carotid artery under your jaw bone and counting the number of beats you feel for 10 second and multiplying that number by 6.
  • Then you would take your heart rate maximum calculated the same way as above, and subtracting your resting heart rate from that number.
  • You would then take 60% and 80% of that number called your heart rate reserve.
  • Add this number back to the resting heart rate and this is your target heart rate range.


Resting heart rate: 65

220-45= 175 (estimated maximum heart rate)

175-65= 110 (estimated max – resting= heart rate reserve)

110 x .6= 66 (heart rate reserve x 60%)

110 x .8= 88 (heart rate reserve x 80%)

66+65= 131 (resting + 60%)

88+65= 153 (resting + 80%)

 A heart between 131 and 153 would be the target range during exercise for this individual.

To identify if you were working within this range you can take your own heart rate during, or immediately after your workout by palpating your carotid artery, located just under your jawbone. Count the amount of beats you feel in a span of 10 seconds and then multiply this number by 6 to get your beats per minute.

By: Mary Schexnayder

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