Heart Rate on Treadmill

For maximum fitness benefits, your heart rate on a treadmill needs to fall into your target heart rate zone. You have several ways to measure your heart rate on a treadmill as well as several ways to adjust it to fall into your target zone. Exercising below your target zone won’t increase your fitness level, while exercising above it can be dangerous.

Treadmills can have a built-in heart rate sensor. (Image: OlegPhotoR/iStock/Getty Images)

Target Heart Rate

Your target heart rate is between 50 and 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, depending on your fitness level. If you’re new to exercise or severely out of shape, shoot for the lower end of the scale. If you’re a fitness guru, feel free to go for the higher end of the zone. For men, your maximum heart rate is your age subtracted by 220. Multiply your maximum heart rate by 0.5 and 0.85 to get the low and high ends of your target heart rate zone. Heart rate is measured in beats per minute, or bpm. Women, for your MHR, you'll be subtracting 88 percent of your age from 206 and aiming to stay between 65 to 85 percent of the MHR.

Gauge It

If your treadmill has a built-in heart rate sensor, you’re all set. Periodically check your heart rate during your treadmill workout to ensure you remain within your target zone. Treadmills can come with heart rate monitors installed in the handrails or those you attach to your chest. The chest monitors are more convenient since you do not have to alter your pace to hold on to the handrails to gauge your heart rate. If you are without a monitor, calculate your heart rate on a treadmill by stopping briefly and taking your pulse for 15 seconds. Multiply the number by four to determine the number of beats per minute.

Make Adjustments

To increase or decrease your heart rate on a treadmill, you can change the treadmill’s speed, incline level or both. A higher speed at a steeper incline will result in a more intense workout with a higher heart rate. If you’re used to running or walking outdoors at a given pace, that same pace will be less intense on a treadmill, leading to a lower heart rate than you are used to. The treadmill workout lacks the wind resistance you find outside. You can mimic the wind resistance on the treadmill by increasing the incline by one percent.

Interval Training

Interval training on a treadmill, in which you insert short bursts of intensity throughout your workout, is a way to further maximize your workout benefits. You can increase the incline and speed, or both, for one to two minute intervals then resume your steady pace. Interval training increases your heart rate during those short bursts of high intensity. Another way to gauge your heart rate on a treadmill is with a talk test. If you can carry on a conversation during your workout but are too winded to sing, you are probably exercising at a moderate intensity that falls within your target heart rate zone.

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