You’re finally hitting the treadmill, but at mile one, you feel like your heart might burst! That fast paced pumping is also known as your heart rate, and is a step towards your maximum heart rate. Your maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate value you can achieve in an all-out effort, going to the point of exhaustion.

Knowing your HRmax is an important tool in training your body for exercise. Knowing this value can help you make and achieve many fitness goals, as well as help you stay within a good heart rate range during cardiac exercise. The following is a list of five handy facts to know when it comes to your maximum heart rate.

1. Maximum Heart Rate Can Be Estimated

No complicated tests, just some basic math. Using your age, you can estimate what your max is, and from there the possibilities are endless. The good thing about estimating you HRmax is that it’s easy and highly reliable. It also stays pretty constant from day to day and doesn’t change much from year to year. The downside is that, although it is quite reliable, it’s not 100% and there is room for error. Here are the two simple equations:

HRmax= 208-(0.7 x age in years)

2. Maximum Heart Rate Can Be Tested for an Exact Measurement

In a clinical setting, your HRmax can be tested using a stress test, usually done on a treadmill. If you are out of shape or the regular stress test cannot be administered, you can do a submaximal test to measure HR max as well.

When you begin exercise, your heart rate goes up until your reach your HRmax, at which point it reaches a plateau. If your increase the intensity of the workout, you will reach a new steady state value within a few minutes, but the more intense the exercise, the longer it take to reach this steady state. Those with lower steady state heart rates at a given rate of work have a more efficient heart.

4. Knowing Your HRmax is Important for Efficient Training

Personal trainers use your HRmax to determine your workload. Of course, you don’t want to be reaching your maximum heart rate for regular exercise, so your trainer will use your HRmax, your HR at rest, and your target heart rate to determine at what intensity you should be working. Once you reach the improvement and maintenance phases, your intensity and time will have increased and your heart should be working more efficiently than when you started.

5. HRmax Does Not Reflect Your Level of Fitness

Don’t stress about this number! Your HRmax is used to determine many other variables in your body. It’s a means by which we measure your actual fitness level, and since it doesn’t change, we use it to determine progress.

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