Know Your Target Heart Rates for Exercise, Losing Weight and Health

Woman checking heart rate using digital tracker on wrist

What should your heart rate be when working out, and how can you keep track of it? Our simple chart will help keep you in the target training zone, whether you want to lose weight or just maximize your workout. Find out what normal resting and maximum heart rates are for your age and how exercise intensity and other factors affect heart rate.

How do you get your heart rate in the target zone?

When you work out, are you doing too much or not enough? There’s a simple way to know: Your target heart rate helps you hit the bullseye so you can get max benefit from every step, swing and squat. Even if you’re not a gym rat or elite athlete, knowing your heart rate (or pulse) can help you track your health and fitness level.

First Things First: Resting Heart Rate

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute when you’re at rest. A good time to check it is in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep, before you get out of bed or grab that first cup of java!

For most of us, between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm) is normal.1 The rate can be affected by factors like stress, anxiety, hormones, medication, and how physically active you are. An athlete or more active person may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 beats per minute. Now that’s chill!

When it comes to resting heart rate, lower is better. It usually means your heart muscle is in better condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat. Studies have found that a higher resting heart rate is linked with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure and body weight.2

Know Your Numbers: Maximum and Target Heart Rate

This table shows target heart rate zones for different ages. Your maximum heart rate is about 220 minus your age.3

In the age category closest to yours, read across to find your target heart rates. Target heart rate during moderate intensity activities is about 50-70% of maximum heart rate, while during vigorous physical activity it’s about 70-85% of maximum.

The figures are averages, so use them as a general guide.

Age

Target HR Zone 50-85%

Average Maximum Heart Rate, 100%

20 years 100-170 beats per minute (bpm) 200 bpm
30 years 95-162 bpm 190 bpm
35 years 93-157 bpm 185 bpm
40 years 90-153 bpm 180 bpm
45 years 88-149 bpm 175 bpm
50 years 85-145 bpm 170 bpm
55 years 83-140 bpm 165 bpm
60 years 80-136 bpm 160 bpm
65 years 78-132 bpm 155 bpm
70 years 75-128 bpm 150 bpm

Hit the Target: Find Your Heart Rate

Now that you have a target, you can monitor your heart rate to make sure you’re in the zone. As you exercise, periodically check your heart rate. A wearable activity tracker makes it super easy, but if you don’t use one you can also find it manually:

  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
  • Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) and press lightly over the artery.
  • Count your pulse for 30 seconds and multiply by 2 to find your beats per minute.

Important Note: Some drugs and medications affect heart rate, meaning you may have a lower maximum heart rate and target zone. If you have a heart condition or take medication, ask your healthcare provider what your heart rate should be.

So what’s in a number?

If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining. Slow your roll! If it’s too low, and the intensity feels “light” to “moderate,” you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

If you’re just starting out, aim for the lower range of your target zone (50 percent) and gradually build up. In time, you’ll be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Woo hoo!

 

Sources: 

1 All About Heart Rate (Pulse), American Heart Association website
2 Elevated resting heart rate, physical fitness and all-cause mortality, Epidemiology, 2013 http://heart.bmj.com/content/99/12/882.full?sid=90e3623c-1250-4b94-928c-0a8f95c5b36b
3 Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate, Centers for Disease Control website https://www.cdc.gov/physicalactivity/basics/measuring/heartrate.htm