Target Heart Rate Calculator

Calculate the optimal target heart rate for each zone and for various fitness goals given your age.

Your Target Heart Rate:

Target heart rate ranges for each of the 5 training zones.
ZONEEFFORTTARGET HR
1very light
(warm up)
 
2light
(fat burn)
 
3moderate
(aerobic)
 
4hard
(anaerobic)
 
5maximum
(speed)
 

Max Heart Rate

 

Target Heart Rate Using CDC Recommendations[1]

Moderate Intensity:
 
Vigorous Intensity:
 


How to Calculate Target Heart Rate

It can be tough to figure out if you are working out to your maximum potential during exercise. Fitness and health professionals advocate achieving a specific heart rate or reaching an optimal heart rate zone to gauge your workouts.

Using your heart rate to guide your workouts several benefits.

For one, this allows you to individualize your workouts to match your current level of fitness. This is also important for people with underlying medical issues to ensure that they get the most out of each exercise session without pushing beyond their capabilities.

In addition, working out in different heart rate zones has its own specific benefits. For example, lower heart rate zones for moderate-level workouts tend to burn more fat, while more intense anaerobic workouts are designed to train your body for power and speed.

Maximum Heart Rate

The first step to determining your target heart rate is to estimate what your maximum heart rate is. The most commonly used formula for this is based on the CDC calculation of 220 minus your age in years.

max heart rate = 220 – age in years

So as you get older, your maximum heart rate slowly declines.

For example, the maximum heart rate for a 20-year-old would be 200 beats per minute (bpm), while the maximum heart rate for a 40-year-old would only be 180 bpm.

20-year-old max heart rate = 220 – 20 = 200
40-year-old max heart rate = 220 – 20 = 180

Heart Rate Zones

Infographic showing the five target heart rate zones for exercise

Once you determine your maximum heart rate, the target heart rate zones are then based on a percentage of this number.

According to the Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, moderate-intensity target heart rate is 64-76% of maximum heart rate, while during vigorous-intensity exercise, the target heart rate is around 77-93% of max.[2]

Target heart rate zones can be broken down into five different zones based on perceived exertion and the goals of the workout.

Table showing the five target heart rate zones.
Zone Target Heart Rate (% of Max Heart Rate)
1 (Very easy/warm up/cool down) 50-60%
2 (Easy-Moderate) 60-70%
3 (Moderate/Aerobic) 70-80%
4 (Hard/Anaerobic) 80-90%
5 (Very Hard/Neuromuscular) 90-100%

The target heart rate formula is based on these percentages of max heart rate.

For example, for a 40-year-old, their maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute. If they wanted to work out in the aerobic zone, they would target 70-80% of their max heart rate, which would be 126-144 beats per minute.

180 × 0.7 = 126 bpm
180 × 0.8 = 144 bpm

On the other hand, if this same person were performing a high-intensity interval workout, they would need to target a heart rate in the hard, or anaerobic zone for these intervals. Their target heart rate would then be 144-162 beats per minute.

180 × 0.8 = 144 bpm
180 × 0.9 = 162 bpm

Resting Heart Rate

Resting heart rate is just what you might think it would be. It’s the number of times your heart beats per minute when you are just sitting at rest.

The best time of day to check your resting heart rate is first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. At this point, you are well-rested and have no added stress from the day, which means your heart rate should be at its lowest at this time.

Resting heart rates vary between individuals and will be affected by numerous factors such as age, stress, hormones, medications, underlying fitness, and other health conditions.

According to the American Heart Association, a normal resting heart rate is generally considered to be around 60-100 beats per minute.[3] However, it can be as low as 40-50 beats per minute in some very conditioned athletes.

While a low resting heart rate can be a sign of overall fitness, certain health conditions, such as hypothyroidism or primary heart block, can cause a low heart rate, also known as bradycardia.

Therefore, if you have symptoms such as dizziness, fatigue, or lightheadedness associated with a low heart rate, you should discuss this with your doctor.

Studies have also found that a higher resting heart rate is linked with lower physical fitness and other cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure.[4]

Heart Rate During and After Exercise

As is expected, the higher the intensity of exercise, the more your heart rate will increase. The ability to achieve and tolerate a higher heart rate is based on several factors, as discussed above.

You can also tailor your workouts to a target heart rate based on your specific fitness goals. For instance, if you have an easier workout day scheduled, you may want to stay in a heart rate zone where your body burns more fat for energy.

To achieve this, you would target a heart rate around 60-70% of your max. Try adjusting your pace to stay in this zone.

In addition, how well your heart rate returns to normal after exercise is also a good predictor of overall fitness. The ability for your heart rate to recover after physical activity is associated with a reduced risk of death.

In fact, studies have shown heart rate recovery after exercise occurs much quicker in well-trained athletes but is slower to come back to normal in patients with underlying heart conditions.[5]

Research has also found that a delayed decrease in heart rate during the first minute after exercise is a predictor of overall mortality.[6]

With a well-designed and individualized training program, you can improve your overall fitness to lower your resting heart rate and the ability of your body to recover after exercise.

Improve Your Fitness With Target Heart Rate Zones

When you aren’t sure how hard to push yourself during exercise, calculating your target heart rate zones is a great way to get the most out of your workouts. This allows you to challenge yourself if your heart rate is too low, or back off if you are going above what your target heart rate should be.

Plus, you can improve your overall fitness by lowering your resting heart rate and decreasing your risk for chronic health issues.

References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate, https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm
  2. Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee - U.S. Dept of Health and Human Services, Physical Activity Guidelines Advisory Committee Report, 2008, https://health.gov/sites/default/files/2019-10/CommitteeReport_7.pdf
  3. American Heart Association, All About Heart Rate (Pulse), https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/the-facts-about-high-blood-pressure/all-about-heart-rate-pulse
  4. Jensen MT, Suadicani P, Hein HO, et al, Elevated resting heart rate, physical fitness and all-cause mortality: a 16-year follow-up in the Copenhagen Male Study, Heart, 99, 882-887. https://heart.bmj.com/content/99/12/882.full?sid=90e3623c-1250-4b94-928c-0a8f95c5b36b
  5. Imai, K., Sato, H., Hori, M., Kusuoka, H., Ozaki, H., Yokoyama, H., et al, Vagally mediated heart rate recovery after exercise is accelerated in athletes but blunted in patients with chronic heart failure, Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 1994, 24(6), 1529-1535. https://www.jacc.org/doi/abs/10.1016/0735-1097(94)90150-3
  6. Cole, C. R., Blackstone, E. H., Pashkow, F. J., Snader, C. E., & Lauer, M. S., Heart-rate recovery immediately after exercise as a predictor of mortality, New England Journal of Medicine, 1999, 341(18), 1351-1357. https://www.nejm.org/doi/10.1056/NEJM199910283411804