How to measure heart rate

How to measure heart rate

Monitoring the intensity of your workouts means you can be much more prescriptive and precise with your training time. Like a smart banker looking for the best return on an investment, this means you’ll get faster, better results for your workouts. Start monitoring your exercise intensity (i.e. heart rate) and stop doing unproductive workouts – you deserve the best return possible from your investment of time and sweat!

There are a number of ways you can calculate your heart rate training zone…



The most common method for calculating heart rate training zone, the range in which your heart rate should remain while exercising, is called the Karvonan method. Karvonan method is very simple and this simplicity is one of the reasons this method has its critics. To calculate your heart rate training zone, perform the following calculation:

220 – your age in years = maximum heart rate (MHR)
60% of maximum heart rate = lower end of your training zone
90% of maximum heart rate = upper end of training zone

Example for a 35 year old:

220-35 = 185 MHR
60% of 185= 111 bpm
90% of 185= 166.5 bpm

Critics of the Karvonan method believe that this formula does not reflect the needs of individual exercisers or take into account current fitness levels. However, for many people, Karvonan method provides an appropriate heart rate training zone for aerobic exercise.



This more personalized method for calculating your heart rate training zone is called Heart Rate Reserve or HRR. Heart Rate Reserve tends to result in a higher heart rate training zone compared to the Karvonan method and is popular with endurance athletes. To use this calculation, you need to know your resting heart rate. Obtain this figure by taking your heart rate when you are relaxed, well rested and caffeine-free. So your best bet is to do it first thing in the morning, just after waking up.

Maximum heart rate – resting heart rate = heart rate reserve

Example for a 35 year old with a resting heart rate of 60 bpm and a maximum heart rate of 185bpm:

185-60= 125
60% of 125 + 60 = 135 bpm
90% of 125 + 60 = 172.5 bpm

As you can see, and taking into account resting heart rate, HRR results in a higher training zone than the basic Karvonan method calculation for the same exerciser.



The method of using the formula of 220 minus your age to determine your maximum heart rate is an estimate based on age. The gold standard for determining maximum heart rate would actually involve a treadmill stress test in a lab. However, you can also determine your maximum heart rate by doing your own maximal heart rate test. In short, this involves doing short, intense and repeated bouts of exercise to try and drive your heart rate up as high as possible. For example, running 400-meters as fast as you can, resting a minute and then repeating. After two or three such efforts, your heart rate should reach its maximum. Use this figure for all your subsequent heart rate calculations. Needless to say, this should only be attempted if you’re fit and healthy.

How to measure heart rate was last modified: August 2nd, 2015 by the team

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