Percentage of Maximum Heart Rate
Using this method, you would start by subtracting your age from 220 to find your maximum heart rate. Then you just need to determine how hard you want to push yourself by aiming for a percentage of your maximum effort.
Joe is a fifty year old man who wants to exercise at 70% of his maximum heart rate. This is how he would calculate it: (220 – 50) x 70% = 119.
Unfortunately, the maximum heart rate does not account for different fitness levels. A heart rate of 119 beats per minute may be difficult to maintain for one 50 year old, and far too easy for another person of the same age.
Percentage of Heart Rate Reserve
Calculating your heart rate reserve isn’t as simple as the previous method, but it’s far more useful. Here are the steps:
1. Start by finding your maximum heart rate
2. Find your resting heart rate by taking your pulse first thing in the morning before you get out of bed. Using either your wrist or your neck, count your heartbeats for 30 seconds and multiply that number by 2.
3. Subtract your resting heart rate from your maximum heart rate.
4. Multiply that difference by the percentage of intensity at which you aims to exercise
5. Add your resting heart rate.
Joe is a fifty year old man with a resting heart rate of 50 beats per minute. He wants to exercise at 70% of his maximum heart rate. Using the steps above, this is how he would calculate his heart rate reserve:
1. 220 – 50 = 170 (maximum heart rate)
2. 25 heartbeats x 2 = 50 (resting heart rate)
3. 170 – 50 = 120
4. 120 x 70% (desired intensity) = 84
5. 84 + 50 (resting heart rate) = 134
134 beats per minute would be 70% percent of Joe’s maximum heart rate, when taking into account his resting heart rate. Note that this is 16 beats more per minute than when he didn’t take his resting heart rate into account.
This is one of the easiest methods of measuring exercise intensity. The individual should be able to carry on a conversation without taking any breaks for a breath. This method of testing is good for unconditioned athletes, but more advanced athletes may find it limiting.
Rating of Perceived Exertion
Many athletes find monitoring exercise intensity is best done by using “Rating of Perceived Exertion” (RPE). Using a scale of 1-10, with 1 being the easiest and 10 being the hardest, rate your own exertion. A rating of 5/10 is somewhat hard, 7/10 would be intense, and 8/10 would be very intense.
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