The Target Heart Rate Formula
Has A Wide Range Of Error
That Most People Are Unaware Of

Hippocrates, the Father of Medicine Focused on Energetics of Food

The target heart rate formula for exercising is expressed as a percentage of maximum heart rate.

The formula for maximum heart rate used by most people was devised by Dr. Williams Haskell in 1971 on a plane ride traveling to a meeting on heart disease. This formula was never intended to be an absolute guide to rule peoples training; however it has stuck as an easy way for maximum heart rate calculation.

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Your heart rate can tell you a lot about your body. It can tell you what shape you are in, how much your fitness has improved, and whether or not you have recovered from your last workout.

Your maximum heart rate is the maximum number of times your heart should beat in a minute without dangerously over exerting yourself.

A heart rate monitor will keep track of your heart rate and workouts taking the guesswork out of training and eliminates the need for you to compute the target heart rate formula.

Your exercise target heart rate is a range of numbers that is between 50% and 100% of your maximum heart rate calculation. The numbers derived will work as a guide for the average person; however without proper testing the numbers are only estimates and can be way off for some individuals.

When your body switches from using oxygen as its primary source of energy to using stored sugar is referred to as your anaerobic threshold.

When you're in poor physical shape, your body isn't very efficient at taking in oxygen, and you hit your anaerobic threshold while exercising at relatively low levels of exercise. As you become more fit you’re able to go farther and faster, yet still supply oxygen to your muscles.

There are different methods of maximum heart rate calculation. The method used most frequently for determining maximum heart rate is for men to subtract their age from 220 and for women to subtract their age from 226.

However, there is a large range of error with this target heart rate formula. Approximately 2/3 of the population will have maximum heart rates that are within 10 beats per minute.

Therefore, 1/3 of the population will have maximum heart rates more than 10 beats per minute. In fact, 5% of the population will be off by more than 20 beats per minute!

This formula is used for activities such as walking or running. To estimate your maximum heart rate for bicycling, subtract about five beats from the final result. To estimate your maximum heart rate for swimming, subtract about 10 beats.

So, for example, the target heart rate formula for a 30-year-old man would be:

220 - 30 = 190. This is his estimated maximum heart rate calculation.

190 x .50 = 95. This is the low end of his exercise target heart rate.

190 x .90 = 171. This is the high end of his exercise target heart rate.

At the low end of the zone a person will burn more fat for energy and burn less calories.

At the upper end of the zone a person will burn more carbohydrates for energy.

Since the formula for calculating maximum heart rate has such a wide range of possible errors for 1/3 of the population, I recommend using a heart rate monitor to estimate this value and your training zones.

I own a Polar heart rate monitor, so the images below are my own. However, there are many good brands on the market.

The Polar FT80 that I use will calculate my estimated maximum heart rate and create 3 training zones for me based upon a Polar fitness test that is performed before training.

After the fitness test, which is done while resting, the heart rate monitor will calculate a LOW, MEDIUM, and HIGH zone for training.

Below are images of my heart rate monitor after two different exercise sessions.

The first set of images are from 1 hour of exercising at a LOW heart rate (average 111). As you can see, I burned 521 calories, and 30% were fat calories during this training.

The second set of images are from 1 hour of exercising at a HIGHER heart rate (average 128). I burned 683 calories, but the fat calories reduced to 16%. I burned more calories, but less fat calories.

Fat Burning EffectAverage Heart RateFat Burning CaloriesFat Burning Duration

Carb Burning EffectCarb Average Heart RateCarb Burning CaloriesCarb Burning Duration


DO NOT use these heart rate averages for your training.

These training zones were calculated by my Polar heart rate monitor based on:

  • My Polar Fitness Test
  • My Gender
  • My Age
  • My Weight
  • My Current Fitness Level
  • My Goals. ie. Maximize Fitness

There are many benefits of heart rate monitors while exercising. Heart rate monitors take the guesswork out of heart rate training for fat loss or improving your cardiovascular fitness.

Much more than target heart rate formula found on our home page

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