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Rich Dafter

Overview of Heart Rate Training

Your heart is the most important muscle in your body. In fact, it serves as a barometer for the rest of your body, telling you how hard you are loading your body, e.g. during daily tasks or exercising. Like any muscle, it needs to be exercised. Exercising at the right level of intensity is important in order to ensure a healthy and efficient heart. Your heart is a living pump that circulates blood, rich in oxygen from breathing, from your lungs to your trunk and lower extremities. The condition of the heart varies between people, but even your own heart rate will vary greatly due to the influence of such factors as:

  • Intensity of physical activity, e.g. exercise

  • Emotions, stress

  • Onset of a disease, heat, altitude

  • Consumption of stimulants, e.g. coffee or alcohol.

When you have a strong heart, you feel active, healthy and energetic. At the same time this will reduce the risk of coronary heart diseases and problems connected with aging. The stress level during daily tasks will decrease and you will be able to work more effectively. To achieve all these benefits of regular aerobic exercise, it is important to do the workouts safely at the right intesity level.

Heart Rate Monitors measure your cardiovascular and physiological stress during training sessions and during daily living. They provide you with an accurate gauge of the intensity of an exercise, as this will be reflected in your heart rate. The harder you exercise, the higher the heart rate. Because hard work alone does not guarantee better results, it is important to exercise within your personal target heart rate zones.


Whatever your goals - improving your overall health, weight management or winning athletic competitions - you can eliminate guesswork by exercising within a specific target heart rate zone. The target zone chart below shows age-related average heart rates (based on estimated maximum heart rates) which enable you to achieve your personal goals. You can exercise effectively within a target zones only if you know how fast your heart is beating throughout your workout. And now,  wireless electronic heart rate monitors make heart rate monitoring easy and fun to do.

Determine your own exercise targets and choose an exercise prescription:

  Moderate Daily Activity Weight Management Aerobic Training Improved Fitness Increased Performance
Intensity level light light-moderate moderate-heavy heavy heavy-maximal
Percentage of Max HR 50 - 60 60 - 70 70 - 80 80 - 90 90 - 100
Exercise duration 30 min - 1 h (even up to 2 hrs) 30 min - 1 h (even up to 2 hrs) 30 min - 1 h (even up to 2 hrs) depends on training programme etc. depends on training programme etc.
Exercise frequency 3-5 times a week (even daily) 3-5 times a week (even daily) 3-5 times a week (even daily) depends on training programme etc. depends on training programme etc.
During exercise slight or no breathlessness and sweating slight or no breathlessness and sweating some breathlessness and sweating obvious breathlessness and sweating obvious breathlessness and sweating
Exercise goal to improve general wellness and cardiovascular health to improve general wellness and cardiovascular health to improve fitness to increase endurance capacity and fitness performance to increase endurance capacity and fitness performance
Recommended target group beginners, sedentary, overweight, rehabilitators. beginners, sedentary, overweight, rehabilitators. persons who exercise regularly persons who are already exercising and have no health problems persons who are already exercising and have no health problems

It is strongly recommended that people take a medically supervised fitness test to determine their maximum heart rate and ideal exercise training zones.  If that is not possible, then the chart below will can serve as a rough starting point for a fitness program.  Some individuals will find that the zones are  too hard, others may find them to easy.

The following Target Range Chart gives a rough approximation of your target zone.

Target Heart Rate Chart


  1. Locate your age.

  2. Locate the target which you have just determined. Each target is shaded differently.

  3. Read up from your age to the target you have chosen.

  4. Draw a straight line to the left from the upper edge of the target and you will find the Upper Limit of your Target Zone.

  5. Then draw another straight line to the left from the lower edge of the target and you will find the Lower Limit for your Target Zone.

  6. You have now defined your Target Zone. As you exercise, make sure that your heart rate stays within the Target Zone (between the Lower Limit and the Upper Limit) to get the maximum benefit out of your workout.

When determining the correct intensity level on Target Heart Rate Zone for a workout you should bear in mind the following factors which may influence the result and cause it to differ from that given in the chart for an average exerciser:

  • current fitness level and general level of physical activity

  • normal individual resting heart rate

To know your exact intensity level, you should consult your doctor or trainer. In any case, you should consult a doctor before starting any strenuous exercise program.

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