Target heart rates for kids
John H. Stock, MD, is a pediatric cardiologist at Cardon Children’s Medical Center.
Question: My family exercises regularly and I want to make sure we’re getting our hearts pumping. How do we determine our target heart rate, and do target heart rates differ between adults and children?
Answer: To find your target heart rate, which is a range where you are working optimally to strengthen your heart and build endurance, you must know your maximum heart rate.
For adults and kids, maximum heart rate is calculated by subtracting age from 220. Thus, a 40-year-old would have a maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute and a 12-year-old’s would be 208.
To maximize cardiovascular benefits from exercising, adults in good health should strive for a target heart rate of 60 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate.
If you are just starting a program or have another health condition such as obesity, 50 percent of the maximum rate is ideal, and you should never exceed 85 percent of maximum heart rate.
For children, it’s better to measure perceived exertion rather than target heart rate. If your child can talk with you while exercising, the activity level is appropriate. If your child is breathless or can only say a few words, the level of exertion is too high.
Finally, always consult with your physician or pediatrician before you or your child begins any exercise program.