Heart rate calculators are crucial for weight loss because heart rates tend to be high when you’re very active. And although you shouldn’t miss heart rate monitors, your training intensity more accurately what’s best for you does constant testing a lot of stress on the body, which is why I wanted to create this site. If you really want to take control of your weight loss and cardiovascular fitness, here are some tips on how to calculate heart rate and doing it accurately without a heart rate monitor.
Target heart rate calculation
When you work out, don’t you wonder if you are doing too little or too much exercise? One way to tell is to compare your heart rate during exercise with your estimated target heart rate. The former you can learn from any suitable heart rate measurement device while the latter can be estimated using our free target heart rate calculator.
There are currently two methods for calculating your target heart rate (target HR) during exercise – one is the Percentage Method in which the target rate is calculated based on your maximum heart rate . So, the formula is simply HRtarget = HRmax x Target (%). For example, if your exercise level target is 80% and your maximum heart rate is 200, you get a target HR of 200 x 0.80 = 160 beats per minute. Using our target HR calculator instead of the table you can get accurate results for any age, not just the tabulated ones.
The other approach is the Karvonen Method, which uses your resting heart rate as well. In the Karvonen method the thresholds are calculated as a percentage of the difference between resting HR and max HR (termed heart rate reserve) and tends to yield somewhat higher rates than the percentage method, in general. The lower bound is (HRmax – HRrest) x 0.5 + HRrest, the upper bound is (HRmax – HRrest) x 0.85 + HRrest. Since this method came from a study with a very small sample size (6 persons) and we are unsure about its representativeness, we are only offering the percentage method in this target heart rate calculator.
Both of these methods, however, rely on the accuracy of the max. heart rate formula used, and this is where many get it wrong.
Estimating maximum heart rate
The maximum heart rate in beats per minute (bpm) can be predicted simply by your age, regardless of gender and physical activity status using formulas obtained on the basis of observational research.
Old max heart rate formula
For the longest time the maximum heart rate was predicted from the age using the formula 220 – Age (y), so a 20 year old would have a max HR of 200 beats per minute. It is convenient and easy to calculate, but it is not very accurate, as shown by later studies[1, 2]. Unfortunately, as of early 2018 it is still used in a lot of calculators and cited in literature.
New max heart rate formula
Tanaka & Gellish performed in 2001 and 2007 studies that demonstrated the necessity to revise this old and empirically untested formula. Tanaka produced the formula HRmax = 208 – 0.7 x Age (y) while the study by Gellish et al., which included much more subjects and followed them across a longer time span (they study was a retrospective analysis of maximal graded exercise test (GXT) results for members participating in a university-based health-assessment/fitness center), resulted in a regression with the following formula:
HRmax = 206.9 – 0.67 x Age (y)
Since this is the study with the largest sample size and possibly best predictive value, this is also the formula used in our heart rate calculator. Below you can see a comparison between the old formula (220-Age) and the two newer formulas.
As evident from the chart, the old formula overpredicts the maximum heart rate by a small margin in younger adults, while it underpredicts it significantly for older people. The three formulas agree only about the average 40-year old person. The difference between the Tanaka formula and the Gellish formula is minimal at all ages.
Max HR in higher body-fat percentage persons
If your body fat is higher than 30% of your weight (you can use our body fat calculator to estimate that), then a modification of the above formulas is recommended. The formula in this case is 200 – 0.5 x Age (y).
As visible, people with over 30% body fat percentage have lower maximal heart rate in under forty while having a higher one later on in life. Our calculator has a simple checkbox you can select in order for the equation to be adjusted accordingly.
Max Heart Rate Table
This table is based on the study by Gellish et al., discussed above.
|Maximum Heart Rate & Target HR Table|
|Age||Maximum Heart Rate||Target HR Zone (50-85%)|
|20 years||194 beats per minute||97 – 164 bpm|
|25 years||190 beats per minute||95 – 162 bpm|
|30 years||187 beats per minute||93 – 159 bpm|
|35 years||183 beats per minute||92 – 156 bpm|
|40 years||180 beats per minute||90 – 153 bpm|
|45 years||177 beats per minute||88 – 150 bpm|
|50 years||173 beats per minute||87 – 147 bpm|
|55 years||170 beats per minute||85 – 145 bpm|
|60 years||167 beats per minute||83 – 142 bpm|
|65 years||163 beats per minute||82 – 139 bpm|
|70 years||160 beats per minute||80 – 136 bpm|
|75 years||157 beats per minute||78 – 133 bpm|
|80 years||153 beats per minute||77 – 130 bpm|
The results are rounded to the nearest whole number.
Maximum Heart Rate Calculator
With our HRmax Calculator you can estimate your maximum heart rate based on age and gender. Knowing your own maximum heart rate is important in your own personal exercise training. It is also of great importance for exercise stress testing to uncover cardiovascular disease. Our calculator will only give a rough estimate, and we also give recommendations on how to find your real maximum heart rate with an exhaustive exercise test
Important to get the maximum heart rate right
Maximum heart rate (HRmax) is an important tool to uncover cardiovascular disease. During stress testing, age-expected maximum heart rate is used as a guideline for when the test should be concluded. If the test is finished before the load is high enough, you risk not to detect subclinical heart disease. Therefore, it is of great clinical relevance to have a way to accurately estimate HRmax.
The traditional formula for determining HRmax is “220 minus age”, but can underestimate HRmax by up to 40 beats per minute in seniors. In fact, the method is inaccurate already at an age of 30–40 years, and gets more inaccurate the older you are.
In The HUNT Fitness Study, we measured accurate maximum heart rate in 3,320 healthy adults aged between 19 and 89. Based on these tests we made a completely new formula which estimates maximum heart rate far more accurately than “220 minus age”. The HRmax Calculator is based on this formula: “211 – 0.64*age”.
Maximum heart rate and beta blockers
Our HRmax Calculator asks you to check a box if you use beta blockers. The reason for that is that heart patients and others on beta blockers will have a reduced maximum heart rate.
Beta blockers bind to adrenaline receptors and block access for adrenaline molecules. Adrenaline causes the heart to pump both harder and faster. Hence, beta blockers reduce the maximum heart rate. The magnitude of the reduction depends on the dosage, so we recommend that you test yourself to find an exact HRmax.
Find your exact maximum heart rate
Our research shows that the variation in maximum heart rate within age groups is fairly large. Genetics contribute more to maximum heart rate than physical fitness. Therefore, it’s hard to make a calculator that can estimate maximum heart rate precisely, and we recommend all of you who want to find your real HRmax to test yourself by pushing yourself to exhaustion:
- Warm up thoroughly so you start sweating.
- Do two intervals, each four minutes long. During the intervals you should be too short of breath to talk. Intersperse each interval with three minutes of active rest.
- Start the third interval, but two minutes in, increase your speed even further an run until you’re too exhausted to continue. Your HRmax will be the highest heart rate you reach. The heart will reach a plateau at which it cannot beat any faster, regardless of how much you increase the workload.
If you don’t have a heart rate monitor, you can measure the maximum heart rate by holding two fingers to your neck for 30 seconds right after finishing the test. Double the number you get to find your HRmax.
How to Calculate Heart Rate for Fat Burn
Exercising at a low-to-moderate intensity will ensure you’re within the ‘fat burning zone’.
Exercising at different intensities will produce different results. Depending on your goal, exercising at one intensity may help you reach your objective better than exercising at other intensities. And the best way to know if you’re exercising at the appropriate intensity is to pay attention to your heart rate and understand your heart rate zones.
For example, if you want to encourage your body to use more stored fat as fuel during exercise, you’ll want to exercise at a low-to-moderate intensity. To ensure you’re exercising at the right intensity, you first need to know how to calculate your target heart rate zone for fat burn.
What Does ‘Fat Burn Zone’ Mean?
If you’ve ever heard someone reference the ‘fat burn zone,’ you may be wondering what it entails.
The ‘fat burn zone’ refers to a time during exercise when you’re working at a low-to-moderate intensity, or an intensity that’s roughly 50 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate (the number of times your heart beats per minute when it’s working at its maximum capacity).
Your body relies primarily on fat and carbs as fuel during exercise, and which fuels get used largely depend on how hard you’re working. When you exercise at a lower intensity, your body uses primarily fat for energy (roughly 60 percent of calories burned), as well as carbohydrates.
This is the reason why exercising at a low-to-moderate intensity is called exercising within the ‘fat burning zone.’ If you increase the intensity (i.e. run instead of walk or jog), your body begins using more carbs in the form of glucose (i.e. sugar) and glycogen, and you are no longer in the fat burning zone.
How Do You Calculate Heart Rate Zones?
To determine whether you’re exercising in the fat burning zone — or any other heart rate zone — you first need to know one number: your maximum heart rate (MHR).
In general, your MHR will get lower as you age; therefore, age is a common way of estimating healthy MHR. To estimate yours, subtract your age from 220. As an example, a 45-year-old will have a MHR that’s roughly 175 beats per minute (bpm).
From there, you can figure out your target heart rate zone for exercise in general, and the fat burning zone in particular.
The target heart rate zone for exercise is any intensity that gets your heart working at 50 to 85 percent of its maximum. Low-to-moderate intensity activities (ex. walking, jogging, leisure swimming) will fall between 50 to 70 percent of MHR, whereas high-intensity activities (ex. running, sprinting, playing sports) will typically fall between 70 to 85 percent of MHR.
You can easily calculate your estimated heart rate at different intensities by multiplying your MHR by the percentage you’re aiming for. So, if you’re 20 years old and you want to do high-intensity exercise, multiply 200 (MHR) by 0.7 to get the lower end of your target range, and 0.85 to get the upper limit.
The American Heart Association (AHA) also offers this handy heart rate chart. Here, you’ll find MHRs according to age, as well as estimated target heart rate zones.