Heart Rate: learning how to calculate it

In this article, we'll teach you how to measure your heart rate. Take note!
Heart Rate: learning how to calculate it

Last update: 17 February, 2019

Health professionals know the importance of maintaining an appropriate heart rate during exercise.  If you want to benefit from physical activity, it’s important that you don’t become too tired too quickly. In order to know how the intensity of each workout affects you, one of the best things you can do is to calculate your heart rate.

Calculating this figure allows you to measure your initial physical condition and control your progress throughout your workout regimen. To make this possible, you need to measure your pulse periodically while at the peak intensity of your routine. Even if you’re not an athlete, knowing your heart rate can help you have more control over your physical condition, and it can even help you detect health problems.

Now that you have a goal, you can control your heart rate in order to ensure you’re in optimal condition to work out. Check it periodically as you exercise.

Heart rate watch

A portable heart rate monitor can make this very easy, but even if you don’t have one you can still calculate it manually. In order to measure it, you simply need to find your pulse with your fingers and hold for 15 seconds. Then, multiply the number by four in order to get the figure over one minute.

How to calculate your heart rate

Your heart rate – or pulse – is the number of times your heart beats per minute. A normal heart rate varies from person to person. As you become older, your pulse can change in terms of frequency and regularity, which may indicate a cardiac condition or another serious issue.

One way to measure the intensity of your workout is to check how many times your heart beats during the physical activity. If you want to use this method, you must first calculate your maximum heart rate, the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle, during physical activity.

The simplest way to calculate this figure is by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you’re 30, subtract 30 from 220. The result will allow you to obtain the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.

Doctor with stethoscope

Once you know your upper limit, it’s time to determine your desired target heart rate. In other words, this is the level at which your heart is getting exercise and conditioning without working excessively. Remember that if you’re not in shape or if you’re at beginner-level, you need to increase the intensity gradually. In addition, if your goal is to build endurance and aerobic capacity, your should aim for 85 percent intensity.

In broad strokes, the following target heart rates are recommended:

  • Moderate intensity: 50 – 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
  • High intensity: 70 – 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.

Why should I calculate my heart rate?

Calculating your heart rate helps you to have a better understanding of the intensity of your workout. Keep in mind that when you’re engaged in any aerobic activity, be it running or biking, the intensity of the exercise relates to how difficult the activity is for you. Knowing your heart rate will allow you to see how your body reacts when faced with different types of exercise.

It also offers you a more objective idea of the intensity at which you’re exercising. In general, the higher your heart rate is during exercise, the more intense the workout will be. If it’s too high, this means that you’re pushing yourself and need to scale back. Conversely, if it’s too low, it means you’re not making enough effort. In the latter case, you should try to increase the intensity, especially if you’re trying to lose weight.

Finally, keep in mind that any method you use to measure the intensity of your workout is welcome. In addition, remember that some high blood pressure medications reduce your maximum heart rate. So if you’re taking any medication or have a heart condition, you need to talk to your doctor in order to find out if you need to maintain a lower heart rate.

Similarly, if your pulse is too low or you experience frequent inexplicable episodes of rapid heart rate, inform your doctor. You need to find out whether the situation constitutes an emergency.

This text is provided for informational purposes only and does not replace consultation with a professional. If in doubt, consult your specialist.