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Target Heart Rate with Exercise

Written By Coastal Integrative Health on October 3, 2016

Dr. McCauley discusses target heart rate.

42 doesn't sound that old but some days it certainly feels like it is. Over the past few years, I have found myself less mobile and more winded keeping up with my 3 sons. My first steps out of bed in the morning are often met with stiffness and pain in my R knee, pain in my left mid foot and stiffness in both hips that makes me resemble someone who has been horseback riding all afternoon.   I know better than to stay like this, but like many of us, I find ample excuses for why I start my day this way.

Despite all my medical knowledge, I'd probably keep going this way if weren't for the eye opening reality check last fall brought losing a sister at age 43 from an unpredicted cardiac event .   My first steps after that were to address immediate concerns with potential family history linkage. I underwent a battery of tests from EKG's, echocardiograms, Cardiac Calcium scoring tests, and treadmill and nuclear stress tests.   Although some irregularities presented, nothing was present to deter my renewed desire to optimize my own health and wellness for myself as well as my family.

With significant cardiac concerns cleared, I wanted to establish a baseline of my cardiovascular fitness level.  Returning to running after a long hiatus was a challenge , and definitely confirmed my need to address cardiovascular endurance.   On my initial run, I completed 2.01 miles in 21:10 with an average pace of 10:20. I stopped more from being short of breath and exerted, although my knee and foot definitely were speaking to me as well.  My resting HR is usually 76 bpm, and during my initial run , it was up to 166 bpm.   What is the ideal HR for me?  When looking at targets for training and max HR, some formulas used in cardiac conditioning include:

Max Heat Rate   220-age , so in my case would be 178 bpm

Target Heart Rate  There are a few formulas listed to find a target heart rate to work at during exercise, but one put out by the Mayo clinic ( I found useful . They define target heart rate as the level at which your heart is being conditioned but not overworked.

Moderate exercise intensity: 50 to 70 percent of Max HR

Vigorous exercise intensity: 70 to 85 percent of Max HR

So when looking at myself, a target heart rate goal would be:

70-85% of Max HR

70-85% of (220- age of 42 = 178 )

Target HR for training would be   125-151

With my HR going above that , it showed the need for a gradual progressive return to activity.  The first time back to activity it is easy to see why the elevated HR, but as a rule of thumb, it is better to start exercising gradually.  Targeting the moderate intensity training HR would be the safer way to begin.  As your body adapts and conditions, you can progress to more vigorous training intensities.

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Posted In: Physical Therapy Cardiovascular Fitness Running target heart rate