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How Does Running Affect Your Heart Rate?

author image Heather Topham Wood
Heather Topham Wood is a seasoned writer whose work has appeared in numerous publications, including USA Today, Gadgetell, Feel Rich and Step in Style. Heather is a published novelist with six Amazon bestsellers and a contract through Crescent Moon Press. She holds a bachelor's degree in English from TCNJ.
How Does Running Affect Your Heart Rate?
A female runner is looking at her fitness tracker. Photo Credit: kaspiic/iStock/Getty Images

Since running is a high-intensity exercise, your heart rate will increase greatly during exertion. The speed and distance of the run affects your heart rate reading. Using a heart rate monitor can help you run within a target training zone. Most heart rate monitors for running require securing a chest strap around your body and wearing a wireless receiver on your wrist. Check with your doctor before trying any new exercises or exercising at a higher intensity.

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Max Heart Rate

Calculate your maximum heart rate before you start monitoring your progress during runs. For men, the maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. For women, subtract 88 percent of your age from 206. For instance, a 40-year-old man will have a maximum heart rate of 180, and a 40-year-old woman will have a maximum heart rate of 171.

Distance Runs

During distance runs, exercising at your target heart rate can improve aerobic capacity and muscle cell adaptation. A distance run is one that's longer than 5 miles and involves you working at 70 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Use this heart rate on recovery run days or as part of your preseason training plan. To increase your lactate threshold, run at 80 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate. Your lactate threshold is the level at which lactic acid is released into your bloodstream.

Running Intervals

Running at your target heart rate during interval training sessions improves your max oxygen consumption, increases cardiac output, enhances anaerobic endurance and increases the rate of lactic acid removal from your body. Long intervals of three to five minutes should be run at 95 percent of your max heart rate with short rest periods in-between. Short intervals of no more than 90 seconds can be run at 100 percent of your max heart rate and should have long rest sessions.


If you are new to exercise, do not start running at 70 percent or higher of your maximum heart rate immediately. The American Heart Association suggests you work at 50 percent of your maximum heart rate. By six months of regular running, you should be able to exercise comfortably at 85 percent of your max heart rate. Keep in mind that certain medications, like blood pressure drugs and medical conditions, like heart disorders, can affect your heart rate readings.

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