Heart Rate for Exercising Women

The long-used formula for determining a person's maximum heart rate, 220 minus age, is still considered useful for estimating a man's rate, but it tends to overestimate the maximum heart rate of women. A new formula presented in the article "Heart Rate Response to Exercise Stress Testing in Asymptomatic Women" by Martha Gulati and colleagues, published in the July 13, 2010, issue of "Circulation," offers a more accurate way to estimate maximum heart rate in women.

A woman is exercising in a gym. (Image: VladimirFLoyd/iStock/Getty Images)

Formula

In "New Formula Gives First Accurate Peak Heart Rate for Women", a July 29, 2010, article in "Science Daily," Gulati and her colleagues suggest women use the formula 206 minus 88 percent of age. For example, a 35-year-old woman would have an estimated maximum heart rate of 206 minus [(0.88) times 35] or 206 minus 30.8 or 175 beat per minute.

Heart Rate Exercise Ranges

Recommended heart rate targets vary. Some trainers suggest training at an intensity that raises your heart rate to between 70 percent and 90 percent of maximum. Organizations such as the American Council on Exercise and the American Heart Association indicate that you can achieve a healthy level of cardiovascular fitness by exercising at a pace that raises your heart rate between 50 percent and 80 percent of its maximum.

Examples

A 20-year-old woman has an estimated maximum heart rate, of 188, a 50 percent max HR of 94, a 70 percent max HR of 131, an 80 percent max HR of 150 and a 90 percent max HR of 169.

A 30-year-old woman has an estimated max HR of 180, a 50 percent max HR of 94, a 70 percent max HR of 131, an 80 percent max HR of 150 and a 90 percent max HR of 169.

A 40-year-old woman has an estimated max HR of 171, a 50 percent max HR of 86, a 70 percent max HR of 120, an 80 percent max HR of 134 and a 90 percent max HR of 154.

A 50-year-old woman has an estimated max HR of 162, a 50 percent max HR of 81, a 70 percent max HR of 113, an 80 percent max HR of 130 and a 90 percent max HR of 146.

Rating Your Perceived Exertion

Several factors can affect heart rate besides exercise: clothing, ambient temperature, degree of fitness, level of anxiety and obesity. Spend a few training sessions using a heart monitor to correlate your perceived level of exertion, or how you feel, with your corresponding heart rate level. This will help you be able to feel when you are exercising at your target pace, or at a level that corresponds to it under the existing conditions.

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