Target Heart Rate Zones: What They Are and What They Mean

Medically Reviewed By Micky Lal, MA, CSCS,RYT
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A target heart rate zone is the range of how fast you aim to have your heart beating when you exercise or how quickly it beats when you are resting. These ranges can vary depending on your age and general health. Target heart rate zones can also differ according to what you are trying to accomplish. For example, you may be aiming for weight loss, endurance, cardiovascular health, or other goals.

Knowing your target heart rate will help you understand what is safe and effective in terms of your exercise. Speak with a doctor if you are concerned about your heart rate for any reason.

Keep reading to learn more about target heart rate zones.

Target heart rate zones by activity level

a man is running and checking his pulse on a watch
eclipse.images/Getty Images

The target heart rate zones can fall into five categories that reflect your physical exertion. They are a percentage of your maximum safe heart rate.

Below are the five zones, including target heart rates and typical activity levels to reach them.

ZoneTarget heart rateExplanation
150–60% of maximum Moderate activity: This zone is good for beginners
and can help with weight loss. The body is burning
more fat calories than carbohydrate calories at this
level.
260–70% of maximumWeight management: This zone can help you
manage your weight and strengthen your heart. It is
also called the aerobic fitness threshold.
370–80% of maximumAerobic: This zone can be beneficial for your heart
and respiratory system. It can help you increase
your endurance.

4
80–90% of maximumAnaerobic threshold: This zone is suitable for
high performance training. In this zone, your body
becomes better at metabolizing lactic acid, which
means that you can train harder without the
pain of lactic acid and oxygen debt.
590% and above of maximumRed line: This zone is suitable for athletes who are
extremely fit. However, they should only be at this
level for short amounts of time.

Finding your maximum heart rate

You can find your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from the number 220.

For instance, if you are 43 years old, your maximum heart rate is 177 beats per minute (bpm). If you want to reach zone 3, you would be aiming for a heart rate between 141 and 150 bpm.

Knowing which zone to aim for

The best zone for you will depend on your goals and what is safe and healthy depending on your age and physical condition. Aiming for the highest zone is not always recommended.

Best zone for fat loss

According to a 2021 review of studies, higher intensity exercise of at least zone 2 may lead to greater fat loss than low-to-moderate intensity exercise.

Lower and moderate intensity exercise relies on fatty acid oxidation, which does lead to fat loss, but research has suggested that high intensity exercise is more effective.

This means that exercises such as high intensity interval training (HIIT) may be an effective tool for weight loss. HIIT involves short bursts of more intense exercise followed by rest periods.

Learn about the 12 best exercises for weight loss here.

Target heart rates by age

Another way to look at target heart rate is by aiming for a good overall rate during exercise. This will vary according to several factors, including age.

Here is a chart of target heart rates by age.

Age (years)Target (bpm)Average maximum rate (bpm)
20100–170200
3095–162190
3593–157185
4090–153180
4588–149175
5085–145170
5583–140165
6080–136160
6578–132155
7075–128150

You can measure your own heart rate, or fitness trackers can make tracking it easy and accurate. Fitness apps connected to your device will typically record your heart rate so that you can see how you are doing over time.

As you become stronger and more fit and your heart does not have to work as hard, you may find that your heart rate becomes lower even while doing the same activity,

Getting your heart rate up increases the amount of blood bringing oxygen to your muscles, which you need when you exert yourself. Having efficient muscles takes some strain off the heart, and, over time, the heart muscle itself becomes stronger.

Learn about some other ways exercise can change the body here.

How to find your pulse and measure your heart rate

To find your pulse:

  1. Put the tips of two fingers on your wrist, below your thumb.
  2. Move them slightly until you feel the beat of the artery beneath your skin.
  3. Count how many beats there are in 30 seconds, then double this number to calculate how many beats there are in a minute.

Finding your resting heart rate

Your average resting heart rate measures beats per minute when you are not exerting yourself, and it is the baseline that tells you about your heart health.

A typical resting heart rate of 60–100 bpm can indicate good heart health and reduce your risk of developing heart disease.

That said, athletes and very fit, active individuals may have a resting heart rate as low as 40 bpm. For those people, having such a low heart rate is not typically a concern.

To find your resting heart rate, measure your heart rate over a period of several days when you are relaxed, ideally before you get out of bed. Once you know your baseline, you could track it to see if exercising is bringing your resting heart rate down.

If you take medications that can affect your heart rate, such as beta-blockers, ask your physician what your heart rate range should be when you exercise.

Risks associated with heart rates

Check with your doctor if you are concerned that your resting heart rate may be low or too high, as this could signify an underlying condition.

  • Risks of a high resting heart rate: If your resting heart rate is over 100 bpm on a regular basis, you may be at higher risk of developing cardiovascular disease and having a heart attack or stroke. When your heart rate is higher during exercise, however, the risk of having a heart attack or experiencing another cardiac event is low. A high heart rate is called tachycardia.
  • Risks of a low resting heart rate: If your resting heart rate is below 60 bpm, this is called bradycardia. Your heart may not be pumping hard enough to get sufficient blood to your organs, including your brain. It can lead to fainting, low blood pressure, or even heart failure. If you are an athlete, however, remember that having a resting heart rate lower than 60 bpm may be normal for you.

When to contact a doctor about your resting heart rate

If your resting heart rate is above 100 bpm or below 60 bpm, it is worth speaking with a medical professional about testing for heart disease and other heart conditions.

The doctor will examine you and ask you about your medical history and any symptoms you have. They may also order blood tests or imaging tests or give you a stress test to measure how your heart responds when you exert yourself.

Emergency medical care

Contact a doctor, call 911, or go to the emergency room (ER) if you are exercising or resting and experience:

Getting regular exercise is a great way to support heart health, but what works for one person may be too strenuous for another. Make sure that you are devising a safe approach to exercise by consulting with your doctor and always following their guidance.
Learn more about when to go to the ER for a fast heart rate here.

Summary

Understanding your target heart rate is an important part of getting the most out of any exercise program or activity. The target heart rate zones can help you understand how your heart and body react to exercise. Different zones can help you accomplish different goals, such as losing weight or building endurance.

You can learn how to identify when you have reached your ideal heart rate zone by making simple observations like how easy it is to talk. You can also measure your pulse or use a fitness device that tracks your heart rate.

If you are just starting out, do not exert yourself too much. If you are older or have any health conditions, talk with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.

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Medical Reviewer: Micky Lal, MA, CSCS,RYT
Last Review Date: 2022 Jan 23
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