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Working out with a heart rate at or above 200 bpm might be fine — or it might pose health risks.
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Aerobic exercise raises your heart rate and is important for staying healthy and improving cardiovascular health. But what if your heart rate goes over 200 beats per minute? We talked to cardiologists to explain what your heart rate should be when exercising — and what to do if it gets too high.


If your heart rate goes above 200 beats per minute (bpm) while exercising, it often means you should slow down or stop exercising. However, there are other factors to consider.

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"The amount of exercise and the response to exercise is often due to many factors, including things such as weight, age and medical conditions," says Nilay Mehta, DO, a cardiologist with Memorial Hermann in Houston, Texas. "During exercise, your heart rate and blood pressure go up and this is normal. However, your blood pressure and heart rate should be tolerated by you and your body."

If your exercise isn't intense enough, your heart rate stays too low to be beneficial. If it goes too high, it can be dangerous. This is why it is important to know your target heart rate and maximum heart rate.

Finding Your Target and Maximum Heart Rate

To determine if 200 bpm is too high for you while exercising, you must first determine your maximum heart rate (MHR). "Maximal predicted heart rate is age-related," explains cardiologist Ryan Gindi, MD, senior staff physician with Henry Ford Health's Heart & Vascular Service Line. "You can estimate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220."


"For a young individual 20 years of age or younger, exercising at a high intensity, a heart rate of 200 bpm may be appropriate (220 - 20 = 200)," he says.

For someone who is 45 years old, that formula gives us a number of 175 (220 - 45 = 175), which means that a heart rate of 200 bpm while exercising is considered too high.


Keep in mind that this formula is just an estimate of your maximum heart rate. The most accurate way to determine your maximum heart rate is with a treadmill stress test at your doctor's office.

Research has shed some light on how to better estimate your maximum heart rate, taking into account your age and sex.

  • Fox Formula:‌ 220 - your age, the traditional method of determining MHR
  • Gulati Formula:‌ 206 - (0.88 x your age), a more precise method for women to determine MHR
  • Tanaka Formula:‌ 206.9 - (0.67 x your age), a more precise method for adults 40 to determine MHR

Now that you know your maximum heart rate, you can figure out your target heart rate. "In general, a safe moderate-intensity heart rate with exercise is approximately 65 to 75 percent of your max," Dr. Gindi says. "For high-intensity exercise, you should exercise to roughly 75 to 90 percent of your max."


You can also use the American Heart Association's Target Heart Rate chart to find estimates of your maximum and target heart rate by age:


Maximum and Target Heart Rate by Age


Target HR (in bpm)

Maximum HR (in bpm)



















Source(s): AHA


Try plugging your numbers into’s Target Heart Rate Calculator.

"For someone new to exercise, I recommend starting with moderate-intensity exercise 150 to 300 minutes per week," says Dr. Gindi. That's 30 to 60 minutes of exercise five days per week. Examples of this type of exercise are brisk walking, water aerobics, biking (less than 10mph) or tennis doubles, according to the American Heart Association (AHA).


"Over time and with guidance, exercise can safely progress to more high-intensity 75 to 150 minutes per week," he says. This means 15 to 30 minutes of higher-intensity exercise five days per week. Examples of high-intensity exercise include running, hiking uphill, tennis singles or swimming laps.

"For individuals with cardiovascular risk factors, an exercise stress test can be considered before beginning high-intensity exercise. Anytime there is exercise-induced chest discomfort, unusual shortness of breath or a sudden decrease in exercise tolerance, you should be evaluated by your doctor," Dr. Gindi says.


Should You Stop Exercising if Your Heart Rate Is Above 200?

If your heart rate goes above 200 bpm while exercising, you need to first determine if it is appropriate for your age — and if you are experiencing any symptoms. If you are 20 or younger, then it is within the general guidelines for your maximum heart rate and should be fine, as long as you aren't having any symptoms.

"A heart rate above 200 can or cannot be dangerous," Dr. Mehta says. "A heart rate above 200 when exercising can occur, but if it's tolerated (such as no shortness of breath or chest pain), it's OK to sustain it for a short period of time."


"If the heart rate jumps to 200 almost immediately and you're feeling symptoms, it's advisable to stop exercising and discuss it further with your physician or cardiologist," he says. "This could be a sign of an irregular heart rhythm or it could be a problem with other serious conditions."


If you don't have coronary artery disease and are not at risk for a heart attack, Dr. Gindi says exceeding your maximum heart rate is safe for short periods of time.


However, keep in mind you do run the risk of overtraining. "[This] can result in a decline in exercise performance or progress, stiffness or sore muscles, not feeling refreshed after exercise or injuries," he says. "For individuals at increased risk for a heart attack, adjust your training plan by lowering the intensity and increasing recovery time."

Warning Symptoms to Watch Out For

To determine if you should stop exercising or see a doctor, you need to be aware of how you feel while exercising, says Abid Ali Fakhri, MD, a cardiologist at UM Baltimore Washington Heart Associates.

"It really comes down to if you are experiencing any warning symptoms. While there are charts that can help you understand what may be an acceptable maximum heart rate, these are based mostly on your age and may not take into consideration other health-related factors, such as how you eat and if you exercise regularly," Dr. Fakhri says. "If you have any questions about what may be a safe rate for you, talk to your doctor."

Fakhri says if you experience any of these exertion-related symptoms, stop exercising immediately:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Unusual shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations

"These symptoms may be signs that you need to seek medical attention. If the symptoms do not resolve within 5 to 10 minutes, call a doctor and get medical help," he says.

When You Should See Your Doctor

Talk to your doctor if you are experiencing:


  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness
  • Decreased exercise tolerance
  • Heart rate that stays elevated even with rest

Be aware of sudden changes, too. "For example, if you have been exercising routinely at a moderate intensity with a heart rate between 125 and 135, and with the same exercise your heart rate is now 145 and 155, that could be a sign something is wrong," Dr. Gindi says. "It is best in such a scenario to take a rest for a few days before returning to exercise, however, if you notice an elevated heart persists above normal training values, see a doctor."

Even if you're young, a sudden jump in your heart rate to 200 bpm at rest is a sign of arrhythmia, he says. "For someone older, if the heart rate is over 200 bpm while exercising, this could be a sign of exercise-induced arrhythmias [or tachycardia] and you should be evaluated by a cardiologist."

Your resting heart rate can also give you clues about your heart health. "Resting heart rate should be between 60 to 100," Dr. Mehta says. "While resting, if your heart rate is above these values then you may need to see a cardiologist. If your heart rate is below 60 ‌and‌ you're feeling dizzy or having difficulty achieving your day-to-day activities, then you may need to see a cardiologist quickly."

How to Monitor Heart Rate

There are several ways to monitor your heart rate, from fitness trackers to exertion scales and taking your pulse with your fingers.


"Wearable devices are an excellent way of monitoring heart rate during exercise and tracking progress," Dr. Gindi says. "There are a variety of devices now available, ranging from chest-band devices that measure heart rate directly, or wrist and forearm monitors that measure pulse."


These devices range in accuracy. According to a February 2023 study in the European Journal of Sport Science, the Apple Watch 6 was the most accurate for measuring heart rate, while the Fitbit Sense and Polar Vantage V were not as accurate, and showed variable results depending on the activity that was being performed. And in an August 2019 study in Cardiovascular Diagnosis & Therapy, a chest strap (the Polar H7) was the most accurate for heart rate, followed by the Apple Watch.

"There are also smart rings that are very accurate at measuring resting heart rate, however, more research needs to be done to show if they are accurate during exercise," Dr. Gindi says. A January 2022 study in the Journal of Medical Internet Research looked at the Oura smart ring, and showed it was accurate in measuring heart rate at night, however, did not study its accuracy during exercise.


Not a fan of technology? Although heart rate monitors are useful, Dr. Fakhri says he prefers to rely on how you are feeling by using the rate of perceived exertion to gauge exercise intensity.

"While heart rate monitors can be useful, the device may not be able to detect everything and may have a hard time distinguishing some movements," he says "Similarly, heart rates may vary from person to person based on factors such as age and whether they exercise regularly."

The CDC uses the Borg Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. To try it, you rate how hard you are exercising on a scale of 6 to 20, with 6 being "no exertion at all" and 20 as "maximal effort" based on physical sensations during exercise.

If you're breathing harder than normal but can still talk, then this is moderate effort or somewhere between a 12 to 14 on the scale. If you're sweating and can't talk without getting out of breath, that's considered a vigorous level of exercise, or 15 and above on the RPE scale.


Common Questions

What is a too-high heart rate when exercising?

It depends on your age, level of fitness and overall health. Subtract your age from 220 for a general estimate of your maximum heart rate, then try to keep your heart rate under that threshold during exercise.

Should I go to the hospital if my heart rate is over 200?

If your heart rate stays that elevated and you also have any of the following symptoms, talk to your doctor:

  • Chest pain or pressure
  • Shortness of breath
  • Heart palpitations
  • Dizziness

What happens if you exceed your maximum heart rate?

If you have a healthy heart, it's safe to exceed your MHR for short periods of time, but you could overdo it and wear yourself out. If you have any heart problems or symptoms like chest pain or dizziness when exceeding your MHR, you could risk serious heart complications.

The Takeaway

A heart rate over 200 bpm while exercising can be concerning if it falls above your maximum heart rate and you're also showing symptoms including chest pain, difficulty breathing, dizziness or heart palpitations.

In general, it's best to exercise within your target heart rate zone. But if you're not experiencing symptoms and have a healthy heart, it's fine to continue exercising for a short period of time above your maximum heart rate. That said, you run the risk of overtraining. And if you have the above symptoms, regardless of heart rate, you should stop exercising and seek medical care.




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