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How Much Exercise do you Need? Get Your Heart Rate

Your heart responds to exercise in the same manner as any other muscle in the body - it adapts. It grows stronger as it is pushed to higher or new levels of exertion. The stronger the heart, the higher its stroke volume (the heart's ability to pump more blood out of it with each beat). Higher stroke volume means less work for the heart to meet the body's increased demand for oxygenated blood as it exerts itself.

In the world of Fitness, the heart rate you should maintain when you exercise is called your Target Heart Rate (THR). There are several ways to Calculate your Target Heart Rate. But the more accurate way to figure out your Target Heart Rate during aerobic activity is by using the "Karvonen formula".

Before you calculate your Target Heart Rate, you need to record your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) first. You can take your Resting Heart Rate manually at your wrist or neck by following these instructions:


Get your Wrist Pulse How to Get your Wrist Pulse
  1. Find your pulse at your wrist by following the line of your thumb and placing two fingers approximately 2cm (1in) below your wrist joint.
  2. Use two fingers (not your thumb) to take your pulse.
  3. Count for 15 seconds, then multiply by 4 to get your pulse rate.

Get your Neck Pulse

How to Get your Neck Pulse
  1. The pulse side of your neck is just below your jawbone.
  2. Use two fingers (not your thumb) to take your pulse.
  3. Count for 15 seconds, then multiply by 4 to get your pulse rate.

For a more accurate reading, take your pulse first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. To get your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) take your pulse for three consecutive days. Take the average of the three as your Resting Heart Rate. To calculate your Target Heart Rate (THR), follow the equation:
  1. 220 minus your age equals your predicted Maximum Heart Rate.
    220 - your age = MHR
  2. MHR minus your RHR.
    MHR - RHR = N
  3. Multiply that number (N) by 60% and 85%.
    N x 0.60 = y; N x 0.85 = z
  4. Add your RHR to each of these values for the low end (L) and high end (H) of your target heart rate zone.
    RHR + y = L; RHR + z = H
For example: your age is 32 and your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) is 73. To calculate your Target Heart Rate:
  1. 220 - 32 = 188
  2. 188 - 73 = 115
  3. 115 x 0.60 = 69; 115 x 0.85 = 97.75
  4. 73 + 69 = 142; 73 + 97.75 = 170.75

If you don't want to go through with all those formulas, just go to our Fitness Calculators section wherein all you need to input is your age and your Resting Heart Rate. When you train, aim to keep your heart rate above 142 but below 170.75. If you train above your optimum training zone, you begin to work anaerobically and you're body won't be able to keep up with the demand for oxygen. Besides, you will get exhausted quickly.

Ditch or modify a fitness program or exercise that doesn't raise your heart rate to a certain level and keep it there for 20 minutes; it won't contribute significantly to your Cardiovascular Fitness.

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