Is a Heart Rate of 170 Too High for Running?

When you run or perform any other aerobic activity, staying in your target heart rate range can help ensure that you are working hard enough to see results, but not working so hard that you are at risk for injury or illness. Your optimal target heart rate depends on your age and how fit you are. A heart rate of 170 while running may be too high, depending on a number of factors.

Man checking his heart rate while running (Image: Maridav/iStock/Getty Images)

Finding Your Heart Rate

To find out your heart rate, first find your pulse. You can locate it on the inside of your wrist or on either side of your throat. If you can not find it, try placing your hand across the middle of your chest, slightly toward the left. Use a stopwatch to measure a full minute and count the number of beats. You could also count the number of beats in 10 seconds and multiply by six.

Figuring Out Your Target Heart Rate

You can figure out an estimate of your target heart rate for exercise by knowing your theoretical maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the number of beats per minute your heart can handle when working at its maximum. There are several different methods that can be used to calculate your theoretical maximum heart rate. One way is to take your age and subtract it from 220. This number gives you the average maximum heart rate for individuals in your age group, according to the American Heart Association. Keep in mind that this calculation has a wide margin of error. If you are 40 years old, for example, the average maximum heart rate for your age group is roughly 180 beat per minute. Your target heart rate zone is between 50 and 85 percent of your estimated maximum heart rate. If you've been sedentary or are otherwise out of shape, your goal should be closer to 50 percent -- if you are an athlete, it might be closer to 85 percent.

Considerations

You can determine whether you are working at an appropriate level by gauging how comfortable you are while you run. If you can have a brief conversation, you are probably within your target heart rate range. If you can have a lengthy conversation or sing, you should run a little faster to maximize your workout. If you can not speak at all, slow down, because you may be working too hard.

Warnings

If you are taking medication for high blood pressure, you may have a lower target heart rate range than you would if you were not taking the medication. The only way to find out your true maximum heart rate and the most accurate target zone is to have a test done by a medical professional. If you have any medical problems at all, you should talk to your physician before beginning any exercise program. Other reasons to ask your doctor before running include being overweight or obese and being over the age of 40. Since running is a high impact sport, seek medical advice if you have had trouble with your knees or other joints.

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