Target Heart Rate

June 27, 2017 by John Quinn - Product Owner - mPort

Research has shown that if you exercise while keeping your heart rate (measured by your pulse) in your target range, you will be more effective at improving aerobic fitness.

Target Heart Rate (THR) is used as a tool to measure exercise intensity. Most gym machines have heart rate trackers built in so this is something that’s easy to track as you work out. It lets you know if you’re doing too much or not enough.

Resting Heart Rate (RHR)

Your resting heart rate is the number of times your heart beats per minute (bpm) while it’s at rest. The best time to check it is in the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep and before you get out of bed.

According to the National Institute of Health, the average resting heart rate:

  • for children 10 years and older, and adults (including seniors) is 60 – 100 beats per minute
  • for well-trained athletes is 40 – 60 beats per minute.

Calculating Target Heart Rate (THR)

Determining a person’s Target Heart Rate is a simple calculation that only depends on their age. The maximum heart rate (MHR), roughly calculated as 220 minus your age, is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity. Heart rate during moderately intense activities is about 50-69% of your maximum heart rate, whereas heart rate during hard physical activity is about 70% to less than 90% of the maximum heart rate. Note that MHR is just a guide – your actual MHR may vary from the calculation by as much as 15-20 bpm.


Target Heart Rate (min) = (220 – age) * (50 %)

Target Heart Rate (max) = (220 – age) * (85 %)


target heart rate chart
Taken from the American Heart Association. The figures are averages, so use them as general guidelines.

Heart Rate Zones

If your heart rate is too high, you’re straining. So slow down. If it’s too low, and the intensity feels “light” or “moderate/brisk,” you may want to push yourself to exercise a little harder.

During the first few weeks of working out, aim for the lower ranger of your target zone (50 percent) and gradually build up to the higher range (85 percent). After six months or more, you may be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Healthy Heart Zone: 50 – 60%

Frequency: Every day for 30 mins minimum

Intensity: Gentle

You will get healthier in this zone but not fitter. It will reduce your blood pressure and cholesterol and your risk of heart disease and diabetes. This is the perfect zone if you are sick or simply out of shape.

Maintenance / Weight Loss Zone: 60 – 70%

Frequency: 4-6 days for 45-60+ minutes

Intensity: Very Comfortable

Perfect zone for overall cardiovascular fitness and increasing overall muscle strength. Training in this zone increases your cardio-respiratory capacity- meaning you can exercise longer before becoming fatigued.

Weight Loss / Aerobic Fitness: 70 – 80%

Frequency: 3-5 days for 20-60 minutes

Intensity: Comfortable

Anything above 75% of your Max Heart Rate is a great for weight loss. 75%-80% of your Max Heart Rate is ideal simply because you can maintain for a longer period of time ie 60 minutes which makes it very effective for burning calories!

Aerobic / Anaerobic: 80 – 90%

Frequency: 1-2 days for 10-30 minutes

Intensity: Tolerable

You are working hard in this zone and your breathing is heavy – when you reach the Anaerobic your body cannot remove lactic acid as quickly as it produces it – this is where you ‘feel the burn baby’! Working out in this zone improves performance as it helps to increase the lactate threshold!

Red Line Zone: 90 – 100%

Intensity: Uncomfortable to Very Uncomfortable

Reserved for the Elite! Working out in this zone will increase speed. You should only venture into this zone if you are very fit and even then for a short period of time.

Seek advice if you’re taking medication

If you’re taking blood pressure medication, speak with your physician to find out if you need to use a lower target heart rate.

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  1. American Heart Association:
  2. Bupa: