Calculating Your Target Heart Rate

What’s the difference between a fat-burning workout and aerobic exercise? How do you use the heart-rate monitor on an exercise machine or the one you wear on your wrist? Should athletes jog, cycle or do other other aerobic work during the season?

Different levels of exercise affect your body differently, and using your heart rate as a guide will help you create the best workout for you. The first step to using target heart rates for exercise is to determine what type of exercise you want to do, then calculate your target heart rate range for that type of exercise.

It’s easy to calculate and monitor your target heart rate for exercising using a manual formula, online calculator, heart rate wristwatch or exercise machine monitor.


The most commonly used heart rate formula is too high for women.

Find Your Maximum Heart Rate
You’ll calculate your target heart rate based on what yoru maximum heart rate is. The most accuate way to do this is to have a professionally administered treadmill test. Short of that, you can use a variety of online calculators or manual formulas.

• For Women – Women can calculate their maximum heart rate by taking 88% of your age and subtracting it from 206. For a 30-year-old woman, this would be 30 X .88 = 26.4 and 206 – 26.4 = 179.6. You can round this to 180 to get your maximum heart rate.

• For Men – Men are at a disadvantage because there is no widely accepted formula for calculating a male’s maximum heart rate. For decades, people have used a popular formula of 220 – age which was an estimate created by two lecturers on their way to a conference. This may be the simplest way for non-athletes to get a close proximation of their maximum heart rate.

Where to buy heart rate monitors for different workouts.

Exercise Target Heart Rate Ranges

Target heart rate ranges are based on a percentage of your maximum heart rate, which is the number of beats your heart can make per minute. Theoretically, if you go above your target heart rate, your heart rate will stop beating. At the bottom of this page, you’ll find calculators and formulas for finding your maximum heart rate, then your target heart rate range for exercise.

•”Fat-Burning” Heart Rate
If you are new to exercise, workout in your target heart-rate for fat-burning, so-called because this moderately intense level of exercise burns most of the calories you burn from fat. You can start exercising at a heart rate that is 50%-60% of your maximum heart rate. As you build stamina and endurance, you can raise that to as high as 70% of your maximum heart rate.

•”Cardio” Heart Rate
When you do aerobic exercise, you burn a smaller percentage of calories from fat, but still more fat calories overall. Many fitness experts recommend that you perform aerobic exercise at 70%-80% of your maximum heart rate. Depending on your conditioning, you can exercise between 65% and 85% percent of your maximum heart rate.

•Anaerobic (HIIT) Heart Rate
If you are training for sports, you may want to add high-intensity sprint training, which you do in short bursts, followed by longer rests. You do this type of spring training at 80%-90% of your maxium heart rate.

•Resting Heart Rate
Some heart rate calculators may ask you for your resting heart rate. This is the number of times your heart beats per minute while you are lying in bed, sitting in a chair or otherwise at rest. Put your two fingers lightly against the large vein in your wrist or neck and count how many times your heart beats in one minute. Do this several times to get an accurate figure.

 Free Target Heart Rate Calculators

Steven’s Creak Target Heart Rate Calculator

FitWatch Calculator

Free Target Heart Rate Chart

Target Heart Rate Chart for Women

Manual Formulas

Brian Mac: Maximum Heart Rate

SportFit: Karvonen Formula