Target Heart Rates
Parminder P. Singh, MD, is a board-certified physician in internal medicine, cardiology, geriatrics and interventional cardiology and is on staff at Banner Estrella Medical Center.
Question: My personal trainer has asked me to find my “target heart rate” before I begin an exercise program. How do I do that and why is it important to know?
Answer: It is important to know your target heart rate to assure that you are properly pacing yourself when you are exercising, especially if you have been inactive for awhile.
Your target heart rate depends on your age. The formula for finding the target heart rate for a 60 year old individual, for instance, would be to subtract 60 from 220. Fifty-five to 90 percent of 160 would put your target heat rate at between 88 to144.
There are several methods you can use to determine your heart rate. Some treadmills come with monitors that will tell you what your heart rate is. There are also devices that can be worn on the arm that will monitor your heart rate while you are working out, or you can stop periodically and take your pulse by placing the index and middle fingers on the artery on the wrist line above the thumb and counting the number of beats per minute. The pulse can also be taken on the neck.
A simple rule of thumb is that if you can walk and talk at the same time you probably aren’t working too hard. If you can sing without changing your level of effort, you probably aren’t working hard enough but if you get out of breath quickly or are experiencing chest pains you need to slow down a little bit.
For the best results exercise should be done two to five days a week for from 20 to 60 minutes. Walking, jogging, running, bicycling and climbing stairs are all good cardiovascular workouts and good ways to strengthen the lower extremities. Things like swimming or cross country skiing are good exercise for both the upper and low extremities.
Always check with your doctor before starting any strenuous exercise program.