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Meet Your Target Heart Rate

Toni Ann DiSantis



If you are unsure about what intensity you are exercising at, one of the easiest ways to check is by monitoring your heart rate.  Your heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute.  Your target heart rate is the rate you should be working at to improve your fitness level.  The harder you work, the faster your heart has to pump in order to deliver oxygen-rich blood to your muscles. 

There is an exception to this rule for individuals taking medications to lower their heart rate.  Beta blockers, most anti-arrhythmic medications, some calcium blockers, and digoxin are some of the most common drugs that have this effect.  H-2 blockers prescribed for acid reflux can also have this effect in some people.  If you are taking any of these medications, you should talk to your doctor to determine if you should be using a lower target heart rate.


Measuring Your Heart Rate

Many exercise machines are capable of monitoring heart rate, and many individuals choose to buy devices to continually monitor their heart rate.  However, you can easily check your heart rate without any equipment.  Check your pulse on the outside of your wrist (below your thumb) or on your neck just below the angle of your jaw.  Gently place 2 fingers of your other handover the artery.  Avoid using your thumb because it has its own pulse that you may feel.  Count the beats for 10 seconds, then multiply by 6 to get the number of beats per minute.


Determining Your Target Heart Rate

To determine your target heart rate (THR), you must first determine your  maximum heart rate ,which is calculated as 220 minus your age.  This number represents the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity.  THR can be calculated as a range of 60-80% intensity.  Beginners may need to set their THR lower at 50% TO 60%, while more advanced exercises may set their THR higher, up to 85%

Here is a chart to use as a guide for your target heart rate.