The factors that determine your heart rate during cardiovascular exercise include age, sex, level of fitness and exercise goals. It is possible to increase your cardiovascular fitness by exercising at one-half to three-quarters or more of your maximum heart rate, a figure that is influenced by age and gender.
Your Maximum Heart Rate
Your maximum heart rate decreases as you age. If you are a man, a good estimate of your maximum is 220 minus your age. For example, the maximum heart rate of a 30-year-old man would be 190 beats per minute. For many years the same formula was used to estimate maximum heart rates for women. Research published in 2010 in the July 13 issue of the American Heart Association’s journal “Circulation” provides a more accurate way to estimate maximum heart rates in women. The suggested formula is 206 minus 88 percent of a woman’s age. For example, a 30-year-old woman’s maximum heart rate would be approximately 180 beats per minute.
Recommended Target Heart Rates
The American Heart Association suggests that maintaining your heart rate between 50 percent and 80 percent of its maximum is enough to provide cardiovascular benefits. According to an article in The Sport Digest, exercising your heart in a zone between 70 percent and 90 percent of its maximum is generally accepted as being optimal for improving and maintaining cardiovascular fitness.
Examples of Target Heart Rates for Men
The American Heart Association provides examples of target heart rate zones based on age and the maximum average heart rate for that age. A man’s maximum heart rate, or max, at age 20 is about 200 beats per minute. If his target heart rate during exercise is between 50 to 85 percent of maximum, he would try to keep it between 100 and 170 bpm. The max at age 30 is 190 bpm and the target is 95 to 162 bpm. The max at age 40 is 180 bpm and the target is 90 to 153 bpm. The max at age 50 is 170 bpm and the target is 85 to 145 bpm. The max at age 60 is 160 bpm and the target is 80 to 136 bpm.
Examples of Target Heart Rates for Women
Using the formula for estimating the maximum heart rate in women described by researchers in "Circulation," provides the following guidelines. At age 20, the maximum heart rate is 188 beats per minute and the target heart rate zone of 50 to 85 per cent of maximum is between 94 and 160 bpm. At age 30, the max is 180 bpm; the target is 90 to 153 bpm. At age 45, the max is 166 bpm; the target is 83 to 141 bpm. At age 50, max is 162 bpm; the target is 81 to 138 bpm. At age 60, the max is 153 bpm; the target is 77 to 130 bpm.
- American Heart Association: Target Heart Rates
- Circulation: Heart Rate Response to Exercise Stress Testing in Asymptomatic Women. The St. James Women Take Heart Project
- The Sport Digest: Exercise Intensity, Heart Rate, and Perceived Exertion
- American Council on Exercise: Monitoring Exercise Intensity Using Heart Rate