Maximum Heart Rate

Maximum Heart Rate

June 5, 2023

What is the optimum heart rate to exercise at for fitness improvement and fat burning? What does my resting heart rate tell me? Understanding your heart rate is critical to exercising safely, effectively, and enjoyably. In this blog we will define maximum heart rate and target heart rates and explain how they relate to exercise. I will also discuss the most accurate methods for identifying your target heart rate.

What Is Your Maximum Heart Rate?

Maximum heart rate is the highest beats per minute your heart can reach.  You cannot sustain this heart rate because you are putting in all your effort to reach your max.  It is essential to know your personal maximum heart rate in order to calculate effective target heart rates to use during exercise.  Your max heart rate can only be maintained for three to four minutes, any longer and you would collapse with exhaustion.  The heart rate at which you plateau is your max heart rate. I want to reiterate that this is hard, all out maximal exertion. The good news is that you do not need to train at this level of effort or intensity to lose weight.  The only time that you would do this is when you are training for a specific event that requires this type of exertion.

How to Calculate Maximum Heart Rate

At most gyms you will see a max heart rate chart hanging on the wall.  These charts use columns where you find your age and the correlating target heart rate zone. These charts can produce errors of plus or minus 20 beats per minute! The reason for this huge potential error is that they all use the generic formula of 220 – AGE = maximum heart rate. This can be off by as much as + or – 30 beats per minute. This means if you are 50 years old, the charts will predict a maximum heart rate for you of 170 beats per minute.  But your true maximum heart rate could be as low as 140 or as high as 200 beats per minute. That is the normal range of human maximum heart rates. From the charts you have no way of knowing if your maximum heart rate is lower or higher than 220 – AGE. Remember that your max heart rate tells us nothing about your fitness level.

How to Use Maximum Heart Rate During a Workout

If you are interested in endurance training or wanting to work on general aerobic conditioning, calculate 50 to 65 percent of your max heart rate if you’re a beginner; 60 to 75 percent for intermediate level exercisers; and 70 to 85 percent for established aerobic exercises.  If you are looking to lose weight, use interval training to burn the most calories. Short bursts of high-intensity exercise with your heart rate around 80 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate, followed by lower-intensity recovery periods where you should be at 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate will burn more calories than exercising at a consistent level of exertion for the same amount of time.  Knowing your heart rate can help keep you aware of your progress.  Measure your heart rate 15-30 minutes after each workout and compare these.  Over time you will notice that the numbers will decrease, which means you are getting in better shape.


For more information regarding this subject or to get help reaching your maximum heart rate call Flex Physical therapy today and set up an appointment with Amanda our certified personal trainer.  Call today at (712)256-1800 or learn more at

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