Heart Rate Zone: Everything You Need To Know

Exactly what you need to know about heart rate and everything in between

heart rate zone

Have you ever wondered how intense you have been working out?

The simplest way to find out is to identify your target heart rate. Knowing your heart rate will help you get the maximum benefit in every move, step, lift, and squat you take, and make every sweat worth it. 

In this post, you will learn your ideal workout heart rate zone and understand its impact on your cardio health.

What is Heart Rate Zone

A heart rate zone (HR zone), measured as beats per minute (bpm), represents a range of an ideal heart rate according to the age when you do different physical activities.

It also serves as a guide for intensity, expressed in percentage of your maximum heart rate (MHR).

Before starting your training using a heart rate zone, you need to identify your resting heart rate (RHR) or minimum heart rate, and your maximum heart rate (HR max).

Between these values consist of different heart rate zones that represent the levels of training intensities.

Before you dive into any activity, you need to get your heart rate at rest – also known as Resting Heart Rate. Ideally, the resting heart rate is taken the moment you wake up.

There are five levels of heart rate zones with intensities 1–5. In training, you should observe your performance level using the heart rate zones as your guide. 

The Heart Rate Training Zones

Zone LevelMaximum Heart Rate
(HR max)
Description
Zone 1
VERY LIGHT EASY / WARM-UP /
RECOVERY
50%-60% HR maxA phase where your body is experiencing minimal stress and less exertion.

This is an easy training zone equivalent to warming up or cooling down.

It helps improve recovery and overall health.
Zone 2
LIGHTBASE /
AEROBIC /
FAT BURNING
60%-70% HR maxHappens in longer training sessions that can basically sustain miles of running and can still be able to talk to your exercise buddy.

It helps fat burning and basic endurance.
Zone 3 MODERATETEMPO / CARDIO ENDURANCE70%-80% HR maxThis is a speed-up zone enabling you to go faster and utilize more strength than the previous zone.

You’ll be able to feel light muscle pain and moderate sweating in this zone.
Zone 4
HARDCORE TRAINING /
LACTATE THRESHOLD
80%-90% HR maxThis is where your body utilizes lactic acid as a fuel source, letting your body to efficiently perform at your maximum pace.

You’ll be able to experience heavy breathing and muscle fatigue.
Zone 5
MAXIMUM ANAEROBIC / HIGH-INTENSITY INTERVAL TRAINING (HIIT)
90% HR max and aboveThis the maximum speed zone. It involves using the neuromuscular system to recruit additional muscle fibers.

And it’s where you utilize full muscle performance more effectively.

It can be very exhausting for the muscles and breathing. This is usually recommended for athletes and fit people.

If you have decided to enter the fitness regime, start with a low target zone or work out up to 50%.

And then gradually increase the intensity as you get more active in time until you can comfortably reach 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

You may need to see your doctor before starting any exercise, especially when you have certain medical conditions.

And as you get your body used to becoming fitter, you can eventually work your way up to vigorous zone, and eventually transition to train in a multi-zone approach.

Is Heart Rate the Same as Pulse?

Heart rate refers to the number of times the heart beats per minute. The unit used in measuring heart rate is beats per minute (bpm). Heart rate and pulse rate should not be confused because both terms are synonymous.

Using your pulse will help you evaluate the exercise program you’re following. This is how you take your pulse rate: 

  1. Place the tips of your fore, middle, and ring finger of either hand on the pulse area on the other hand’s palm side. You should feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. If you find it challenging to locate it in this area, you can take it on your lower neck’s pulse. 
  2. Count the beats you felt from your pulse for ten seconds. You will need a watch or timer to take it more accurately. 
  3. Multiply the number of beats you got by six—this computation results in your pulse rate or heart rate in beats per minute (bpm).

Note: You can either take a full minute count of the heartbeats or count the beats in 30 seconds and multiply by 2.

An average heart rate at rest for adults 18 years old above is 60 – 100 beats per minute.

Nowadays, there are gadgets that you can wear that will digitally tell you your heart rate at any time of the day.

What is the Best Heart Rate Zone?

You have hit the jackpot if your heart rate is 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

This range of percentage indicates that you are working at the recommended level of intensity. It is typical for your pulse rate to increase when you exercise. 

An ideal heart rate one varies per individual. 

To make the most out of your workouts is to reach a heart rate in the appropriate zone. The lower the heart rate, the more effort you need to intensify your workout.

Make sure your heart rate won’t go beyond the average level, or else you might experience irregular heartbeats or arrhythmia, and it will give you a long time to recover. 

You will need to apply personalized heart rate zones instead of training by pace.

This will require you to use a heart rate monitor or a multifunctional fitness tracker. Usually, a device is worn on the wrist, to check the performance of your cardio-respiratory system or heart rate on a given activity-specific time set. 

Should I Care About the Heart Rate Zone?

You can get the most out of your exercise when working at the right level of intensity.

It is found useful in improving your heart and respiratory system’s endurance. And it will help you keep your awareness on how much effort you should exert to meet your health goals.

Finding out your heart rate zone will help your heart work stronger.

Doing aerobic exercises, also known as cardiovascular exercises, can improve your heart’s health. This is especially the case when you know your target heart rate. 

Take your pulse rate first to find out if you are working out within the target heart rate zone. Pulse areas can be found at your wrist, neck, or chest. Health experts recommend palpating your pulse at your wrist. 

A target heart rate is the minimum beats you need to reach in a given time when you are performing cardiovascular fitness. The ideal values vary depending on an individual’s age, gender, or physical fitness.

An individual’s age, gender, emotions, stress, environment, and medications are taken are factors that can affect his/her heart rate.

Over time, as you get used to doing more exercises, the more you are getting healthier, your resting heart rate will lower. Hence, you must keep a record of your heart rate periodically.

How to Calculate Heart Rate Zone? 

A constant value for the maximum heart rate is 220. Subtract this value with your age in years. 

For instance, if you are 40 years old, subtract it from 220. That will give you an answer of 180. 

In application, at a 50 percent exertion level, your target would be 50 percent of that maximum or 90 beats per minute.

At an 85 percent level of exertion, your target would be 153 beats per minute. Hence, your target heart rate at 40 years old should aim 85 to 145 beats per minute during exercise.

To save yourself from the hassle of this computation, the easier way to get your heart rate is to wear a fitness tracking device, get in on a treadmill or exercise machine reading that calculates target automatically and in real-time.

Knowing how to calculate your heart rate zone, you need to monitor your heart rate periodically and see the result’s differences as you become better with your fit life.

Examples of Heart Rate Zone By Gender

In terms of Resting Heart Rate, this is the range based on age, sex, and classification.

https://lh6.googleusercontent.com/7dFNTs-ESdltZOtpDHq0Ibzqo8w2JxqCWoMlwnMh6znqsBzsf20qqH_shRXM-WTrufdrBMsgH9lNCKZez0l2fbzXxYxaZOvCv4RlspdYl6eKtgEGdG6hrSf0LkX9l295h0TLul6W

When it comes to Target Heart Rate (moderate-intensity activities at 50-70%, vigorous-intensity at 70-85%) and Maximum Heart Rate (100%), these are the average figures from the American Heart Association:

Age(years)Target Heart Rate Zone(50-85%)Maximum Heart Rate(100%)
20100-170 bpm200 bpm
3095-162 bpm190 bpm
3593-157 bpm185 bpm
4090-153 bpm180 bpm
4588-149 bpm175 bpm
5085-145 bpm170 bpm
5583-140 bpm165 bpm
6080-136 bpm160 bpm
6578-132 bpm155 bpm
7075-128 bpm150 bpm

Slow down when your heart rate is too high, or else you might end up straining yourself.

If it’s too low, intensify it to the next level or just push a little harder, especially if you’re aiming to lose weight. Take your time and listen to your heart and body.

How Does an Anaerobic Exercise Affect the Heart Rate Zone?

Anaerobic exercises or resistance training are short-duration workouts that mainly put your muscles to work without the need to rely on oxygen reaching 80 to 90 percent of the heart rate zone.

It does this by burning more glycogen than fat. These exercises strengthen your muscles and increase your muscle mass as it improves your cardiovascular endurance and heart health.  

Activities involved in anaerobic exercise require short exertion such as weight lifting and sprinting. 

How Does an Aerobic Exercise Affect Affect Heart Rate Zone?

Aerobic exercise, also known as cardiovascular exercise, is the type of activity that directly impacts your body’s air circulation system.

This kind of training increases your heart rate and breathing rate by allowing your heart and lungs to speed up to bring in more oxygen into the body during exercise, maintaining 60-80% of your MHR (Maximum Heart Rate). 

Reaching the aerobic heart rate zone increases the number and size of blood vessels in your muscles and improves your lung ventilation. This allows your body to carry more oxygen needed by muscles.

This hearty exercise effectively burns calories fast, especially on weight loss, as it requires you to use the large muscles of your body for extended periods.  

Examples of these exercises are swimming, running, or power fitness classes. 

Takeaway

It doesn’t take to be an athlete or a gym rat to know your heart rate to keep track of your health and fitness level.

Using the heart rate zone will help guide your training intensity, make your workouts more manageable, and ensure every sweat of your exercise is worth it.

Remember to start on a safe and comfortable level for you and monitor the progression of your heart rate from time to time by doing it manually or with a fitness device. 

Pay attention to your body, and stop whenever you feel strained. 

(Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian)

Dorothy is a Registered Nutritionist-Dietitian and a candidate for a master's degree in Public Health (MPH) major in Public Health Nutrition. She has a passion for teaching to her university students about food, nutrition, and health. Dorothy is a coffee lover and she enjoys traveling, writing, cycling, running, cooking, baking, and cooking.