How to Calculate Your Heart Rate Zone

Once you learn the limits of each heart rate zone, you will be able to focus your training on specific goals. Each heart rate zone is characterized by certain:

  • Heart rate reserves
  • Heart beat rates per minute
  • Effect on the muscles

Different Heart Rate Zones

In order to establish the approximate limits for each heart rate zone, you need to know two things: your resting heart rate and the maximum heart rate. You can determine the first one by measuring the heart beat rate when not doing any physical activities. The latter varies with age and has an approximate value of 200 for a 20 year old person and 180 for a 40 year old.

There are 4 heart rate zones, each of them being characterized by a certain heart rate reserve. In other words, every heart rate zone corresponds to a certain ratio between the maximum and the resting heart rates. The zones are:

  • Fat burning zone
  • Aerobic zone
  • Anaerobic zone
  • VO2 Max

It is important to learn the approximate limits of each heart rate zone:

Fat Burning Zone

While in the fat burning zone, the heart rate beats vary between 139 and 152 per minute. This represents 60 to 70 percent of the maximum heart rate. If this heart rate zone is maintained while performing exercises your heart will pump blood better and your muscles will use oxygen more effectively. The muscles that are under stress will be better fed by the body. Not at last, fat metabolism gets improved and hence, fat becomes one of the main sources of energy.

Aerobic Zone

The aerobic zone is characterized by heart rate beats of 152 to 166, which means between 70 and 80 percent of the maximum heart rate. Staying in this zone is recommended especially if you are interested in increasing your cardio-respiratory capacity. By doing cardiovascular fitness you improve the way oxygenated blood is carried to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide is carried away. Muscle strength also increases considerable when performing exercises in the aerobic zone.

Anaerobic Zone

Heart rate beats equivalent to 80 to 90 percent of the maximum heart rate characterize the anaerobic zone. If you perform physical exercises while in this zone, the amount of lactic acid that is produced exceeds the amount that is eliminated. This anaerobic threshold appears at nearly 80 to 88 percent of the maximum heart rate. Tired muscles and heavy breathing are common in this zone as the exercises are performed with great difficulty.

VO2 Max

VO2 Max represents the final heart rate zone, when the heart rate beats range between 179 and 192, the equivalent of 90 to 100 percent of the maximum heart rate. Training in this zone is recommended only for short periods of time and only if your body allows you to. This heart rate is characterized by maximum oxygen uptake. If you perform exercises in this zone, you will be able to increase speed by improving the fast twitch muscle fibers.

Calculate Your Own Heart Rate Zones

The above heart rate beats correspond to a person that has a resting heart rate of 60 and a maximum heart rate of 192. There is a small chance that the above values will be similar for you, too. However, the percentages that characterize each heart rate zone remain the same. In consequence, all you need to do to find out your own heart rate zones is to measure your resting heart rate, as well as the maximum heart rate.

When calculating the resting and the maximum heart rates you need to keep in mind that the following factors may influence these values:

  • Temperature
  • Emotions
  • Posture
  • Body size

Take your pulse for 10 seconds, soon after waking up. The resting heart rate value is obtained by multiplying the measured pulse by 6. In order to make sure that the values are not influenced by any external factors, you can measure your pulse in 3 consecutive days and calculate the average. According to a method used in the fitness industry, the value of the maximum heart rateis obtained by subtracting your age from 220.

Alternatively, you can use fitness equipment that displays your pulse while working out. These two values and the aforementioned limits expressed through percentages will help you determine the boundaries of your heart rate zones.


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