Target Heart Rate Calculator

Use this calculator to easily calculate the beats per minute (bpm) range for your heart rate during exercise. Knowing your target heart rate is good when planning for an optimal exercise schedule.

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Target heart rate calculation

When you work out, don't you wonder if are you doing too little or too much exercise? One way to tell is to compare your heart rate during exercise with your estimated target heart rate.

There are currently two methods for calculating your target heart rate (target HR) during exercise - one is the Percentage Method in which the target rate is calculated based on your maximum heart rate (table). So, the formula is simply HRtarget = HRmax x Target (%). For example, if your exercise level target is 80% and your maximum heart rate is 200, you get a target HR of 200 x 0.80 = 160 beats per minute. Using our calculator instead of the table you can get accurate results for any age, not just the tabulated ones.

The other approach is the Karvonen Method[4], which uses your resting heart rate as well. In the Karvonen method the thresholds are calculated as a percentage of the difference between resting HR and max HR (termed heart rate reserve) and tends to yield somewhat higher rates than the percentage method, in general. The lower bound is (HRmax - HRrest) x 0.5 + HRrest, the upper bound is (HRmax - HRrest) x 0.85 + HRrest. Since this method came from a study with a very small sample size (6 persons) and we are unsure about its representativeness, we are only offering the percentage method in this target heart rate calculator.

Both of these methods, however, rely on the accuracy of the max. heart rate formula used, and this is where many get it wrong.

Estimating maximum heart rate

The maximum heart rate in beats per minute (bpm) can be predicted simply by your age, regardless of gender and physical activity status using formulas obtained on the basis of observational research.

Old max heart rate formula

For the longest time the maximum heart rate was predicted from the age using the formula 220 - Age (y), so a 20 year old would have a max HR of 200 beats per minute. It is convenient and easy to calculate, but it is not very accurate, as shown by later studies[1, 2]. Unfortunately, as of early 2018 it is still used in a lot of target heart rate calculators and cited in literature.

New max heart rate formula

Tanaka & Gellish performed in 2001 and 2007 studies that demonstrated the necessity to revise this old and empirically untested formula. Tanaka produced the formula HRmax = 208 - 0.7 x Age (y) while the study by Gellish et al., which included much more subjects and followed them across a longer time span (they study was a retrospective analysis of maximal graded exercise test (GXT) results for members participating in a university-based health-assessment/fitness center), resulted in a regression with the following formula:

HRmax = 206.9 - 0.67 x Age (y)

Since this is the study with the largest sample size and possibly best predictive value, this is also the formula used in our heart rate calculator. Below you can see a comparison between the old formula (220-Age) and the two newer formulas.

maximum heart rate estimation * the graph is not zero-based and may appear to exaggerate the differences

As evident from the chart, the old formula overpredicts the maximum heart rate by a small margin in younger adults, while it underpredicts it significantly for older people. The three formulas agree only about the average 40-year old person. The difference between the Tanaka formula and the Gellish formula is minimal at all ages.

Max HR in higher body-fat percentage persons

If your body fat is higher than 30% of your weight (you can use our body fat calculator to estimate that), then a modification of the above formulas is recommended[3]. The formula in this case is 200 - 0.5 x Age (y).

fat vs nonfat maximal heart rate

As visible, people with over 30% body fat percentage have lower maximal heart rate in under forty while having a higher one later on in lif.e

Max Heart Rate Table

This table is based on the study by Gellish et al., discussed above.

Maximum Heart Rate & Target HR Table
AgeMaximum Heart RateTarget HR Zone (50-85%)
20 years 194 beats per minute 97 - 164 bpm
25 years 190 beats per minute 95 - 162 bpm
30 years 187 beats per minute 93 - 159 bpm
35 years 183 beats per minute 92 - 156 bpm
40 years 180 beats per minute 90 - 153 bpm
45 years 177 beats per minute 88 - 150 bpm
50 years 173 beats per minute 87 - 147 bpm
55 years 170 beats per minute 85 - 145 bpm
60 years 167 beats per minute 83 - 142 bpm
65 years 163 beats per minute 82 - 139 bpm
70 years 160 beats per minute 80 - 136 bpm
75 years 157 beats per minute 78 - 133 bpm
80 years 153 beats per minute 77 - 130 bpm

The results are rounded to the nearest whole number.

What is a normal heart rate (pulse)?

Your (normal) resting heart rate is when your heart is pumping the lowest amount of blood you need for your metabolism for function. If you’re sitting or lying, calm and relaxed, and you are not currently ill, your heart rate should be between 60 and 100 beats per minute [5].

You can measure it by taking your pulse with your fingers (do not use your thumb, which has its own pulse) at the carotid artery (on the side of your neck, just below the chin) for exactly 15 seconds, then multiplying it by 4.

If it happens that your heart rate is lower than 60, it doesn’t necessarily mean you have a medical problem, as there can be a number of normal reasons for that. For example, it could be due to taking a drug such as a beta blocker. A lower rate is common for athletes or people who get a lot of physical activity, because their heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t need to work as hard to pump the same volume of blood. Moderate physical activity usually has little to no effect.

Key target zones for exercise

This table a rough guideline for the intensity of work out expressed in % of max heart rate.

Key target zones
ZoneEffortEffect & Purpose
50-60% Very light exercise Improves heart healt. Improvement to blood preasure, muscle mass, lowers cholesterol & risk of degenerative diseases. High safety.
61-70% Light effort High fat burn, muscle gains. Trains your body to burn fat and increases the number of mitochondria in the muscle. Good for weight loss.
71-80% Moderate exercise Aerobic effort. Improves vital capacity, respiratory rate, increases size & strength of the heart and cardiac output.
81-90% Hard exercise Maximum fat burn, but only if you are fit enough. Improves VO 2 and you become less succeptible to sore muscles.
91-100% Extreme effort Athelete level, sustained for short periods of time (interval workouts). Develops fast-twitch muscles. High risk of over training and injuries!

Caution in using predictions for individuals

This target heart rate calculator uses a prediction formula based on statistical analysis of a sample of the population, which means there is an inherent plus/minus error so it should be used with caution when trying to determine a specific person's maximum heart rate. For example, within normal variation limits the max. HR of a 40-year-old man or woman can vary would be within 160 and 200 bpm in 95% of cases.

References

[1] Gellish R.L., et al. (2007) "Longitudinal modeling of the relationship between age and maximal heart rate", Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise 39:822

[2] Tanaka H., et al. (2001) "Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited", Journal of the American College of Cardiology 37:153

[3] Katch V.L., McArdle W.D., Katch F.I (2011) "Essentials of Exercise Physiology", fourth edition, p.430-431

[4] Karvonen M., et al. (1957) "The effects of training on heart rate. A longitudinal study.", Annales Medicinae Experimentalis Et Biologiae Fenniae 35:307

[5] American Heart Association "All About Heart Rate (Pulse)" [online] Available at: http://www.heart.org/

Cite this calculator & page

If you'd like to cite this online calculator resource and information as provided on the page, you can use the following citation:
Georgiev G.Z., "Target Heart Rate Calculator", [online] Available at: https://www.gigacalculator.com/calculators/target-heart-rate-calculator.php URL [Accessed Date: 24 Mar, 2019].