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Heart Beats Per Minute in Exercise

author image Laura Niedziocha
Laura Niedziocha began her writing career in 2007. She has contributed material to the Stoneking Physical Therapy and Wellness Center in Lambertville, N.J., and her work has appeared in various online publications. Niedziocha graduated from Temple University with a Bachelor of Science in exercise science. She also has her Associate of Arts in communications from the Community College of Philadelphia.
Heart Beats Per Minute in Exercise
Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is useful for gauging your intensity. Photo Credit: dolgachov/iStock/Getty Images

Your heart rate is calculated in beats per minute. This refers to the number of times your heart contracts per minute. You can learn how to pace yourself and also track your progress by monitoring your exercising heart rate. Calculating your heart rate is easy and depends on your goals of exercise. Before starting a new exercise program or to decide how intense your program should be, consult with your doctor.

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Monitor Intensity

Monitoring your heart rate during exercise is very useful. First, it gives you an idea of how hard you are working. Depending on your goals, you may want to keep your intensity up to a certain point. Watching how your heart rate is responding to exercise gives you the feedback you need to determine whether you should work harder or easier.

Monitor Fitness Achievements

An adaptation to regular exercise is the ability to perform the same amount of work with a lower heart rate. This occurs due to the physiological changes that occur inside your body as a result of exercise. Your heart becomes able to pump more blood per beat offering your working muscles the blood and oxygen they need, but with less effort. An increased number of capillaries, a lower resting heart rate, lower blood pressure and larger blood volume all contribute to this adaptation.

Maximum Heart Rate

The first step in deciding what your heart rate should be is to estimate your maximum heart rate. The easiest way to do this is to use a generic formula meant for the average person. For men, your maximum heart rate can be estimated by subtracting your age in years from 220. For example, a 20-year-old man would have a maximum heart rate of 200 beats per minute. For women, a newer standard is to take 88 percent of your age and subtract it from 206.

Beats Per Minute in Exercise

The speed of your heart rate depends on the intensity of exercise that you wish to work at. The American Heart Association recommends exercising somewhere between 50 to 85 percent of your maximum. Beginners should start at the low end of this range and work up as fitness levels improve. To calculate your target heart rate, simply multiply the decimal of the percentage you wish to work at by your maximum heart rate. For example, the same 20-year-old man from the previous section wishes to exercise at 65 percent of his maximum. His maximum heart rate is 200, as you already know. He would then multiply 200 by 0.65 to find that 65 percent of his maximum heart rate would be 130 beats per minute.


It may be impractical for some people to monitor their heart rate during exercise. Certain medications like those prescribed to lower your blood pressure may also affect your heart rate. Before you begin an exercise program talk to your doctor about how hard you should be working. For lifting weights, heart rate will vary during and immediately after the lift versus after 30 to 90 seconds of rest. For interval training, heart will vary according to the intensity of the interval.

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