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Stephanie Oakes

How to Find Your Target Heart Rate

May 14, 2001|Stephanie Oakes

Question: How do I train in my heart rate zone at the gym?



Answer: Your heart rate is your body's speedometer. It gives you an indication of how fast your body's "motor" is running. Exercising at the right intensity level will help ensure you're getting the most from your aerobic exercise.

Your heart rate can be measured by feeling the pulse of the blood moving through the artery near the outside of your wrist or the carotid artery on the side of your neck. However, taking your heart rate can be difficult while you're exercising. Some exercise equipment in the gym offers heart rate monitors, but I never rely on these.

After consulting with a physician, and depending on your age, conditioning and fitness goals, try to train in your heart-rate zone. Beginners should try to elevate their heart rate to 50% to 60% of their maximum while intermediates and advanced should shoot for 70% to 85% of their max. The higher your heart rate, the more calories you will burn and the more fit you can become.

To figure your maximum heart rate, simply subtract your age from 220. For example, if you're 30 years old, you would have a maximum heart rate of 190. To work out at 70% of your maximum heart rate, you'd shoot for a heart rate of about 133 beats per minute (0.7 x 190). You can also count beats per minute in 10-second increments and then multiply by six.

You can make your life simpler by investing in an inexpensive heart rate monitor. The most accurate high-tech brands use a strap that goes around the lower part of your chest. Electrodes in that strap detect the electrical signal your heart gives off every time it beats. Then, with every beat of your heart, the electrodes in the strap send a signal to a special wrist monitor that will display your heart rate in beats per minute. Simply glance at your watch during your workout to check your heart rate.

(If you have a pacemaker, check with your doctor before using a heart rate monitor.)


Stephanie Oakes is the fitness correspondent for Discovery Health Channel and a health/fitness consultant. To submit a fitness-related question, e-mail

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