Figuring out whether you are in your target heart rate zone
can help you get the most out of your workout. Say you just finished running, riding your bike, or lifting weights for 20 minutes. You feel like you got a good aerobic
workout, but how can you be sure? It would be a drag to find out you've been spending all that time exercising without getting the benefits you're after. That's why knowing how to find and use your target heart rate zone can be a big bonus in reaching your fitness goals. back to top
What's my heart rate?
Measuring your heart rate
, or pulse, is one of the best ways to keep track of how hard your body is working. When you run, swim, or climb mountains, your heart beats faster. That's the point! But is your body working hard enough so that you are getting the most out of your workout and burning calories efficiently
? Or is your body working too hard, leaving you breathless and struggling to keep up? That's where the target heart rate zone comes in. It helps you find the right exercise pace for your fitness level. back to top
How do I find my heart rate?
There are two easy ways to find your heart rate, or pulse. The best time to do this is first thing in the morning or when you are completely at rest.
- Put the first two fingers of your right hand together and place them firmly on your carotid artery, which is located under your jaw. To find your carotid artery, pretend there is a line from the outer corner of your eye that runs straight down your body to the floor. Now trace that line with your two fingers until you reach the spot just beneath your jaw where you can feel your pulse. You don't need to press hard to feel it.
- It may be easier to find your pulse by placing the first two fingers of your right hand on your left wrist directly below your thumb.
Once you've found your pulse, count the number of beats for a minute. back to top
How do I calculate my target heart rate zone?
It's time for a little math. To calculate your target heart rate zone
, subtract your age from 220. Then multiply that number by 60 percent and then by 80 percent. For example, if you are 12 years old, subtract 12 from 220 to get 208. Now multiply 208 by 60 percent (or .60) to get 125, and then multiply 208 by 80 percent (or .80) to get 166. You have just figured out that your target heart rate zone is between 125 and 166, with 125 being your minimal heart rate for exercise and 166 being your maximal heart rate
for exercise. This means that your goal is to keep your heart rate above 125 and below 166 throughout your workout. If your heart rate goes above your maximal heart rate, your heart is beating too fast and you are probably working too hard. Slow the pace down a little or use lighter weights to stay in the zone. If your heart rate is lower than your minimal heart rate, it's time to pick up the pace a bit or add more weight to your strength training
workout. back to top
How do I use my target heart rate zone?
Here's an easy method for measuring your heart rate while exercising to make sure it is within your target heart rate zone and you are getting the most out of your workout. Exercise at what you think is an aerobic pace for at least 10 minutes. Then walk in place as you count your pulse for 10 seconds, starting with 0. When the second hand reaches 10 seconds, multiply the number of beats you counted by 6. This number should be within your target heart rate zone. Check your heart rate
once or twice during your workout if you want to be sure you are staying in your target zone.
The important thing to remember is that if your heart rate is below your minimal heart rate, you're not working hard enough and aren't getting the full benefits of your workout. If you go over the top and exceed your maximal heart rate, your body goes into an anaerobic
state. Think of a sprinter running a 50-yard dash or a gymnast doing vaults. These exercises require huge bursts of energy for short periods of time. Anaerobic exercise is not unhealthy, but it doesn't burn fat as efficiently as aerobic exercise does. back to top