Cardio recommendations are often given with a percentage of the term heart rate reserve.  But what is it?  And how do you determine what yours is?

Well, here’s the simple breakdown to figure out your numbers.

Picture of pulse points on left wrist.
Find your pulse on your left wrist with your right pointer and middle fingers.

To determine your resting heart rate sit in a chair with your left wrist resting in your lap.  Use your right pointer and middle fingers to find your pulse as shown above.  (The left wrist is more accurate than your right and your thumb has a pulse that can throw off the count.)  Just count the beats for 10 seconds and then multiply by 6 to get your resting heart rate.

To determine your estimated max heart rate just take 220 – your age.

The numbers between you resting heart rate and max heart rate are called heart rate reserve (HRR).

Moderate intensity cardiorespiratory exercise is defined by an elevated heart rate of 40-60% of heart rate reserve.

High intensity cardiorespiratory exercise is defined by an elevated heart rate of 60-85% of heart rate reserve.

For example a 34 year old with a resting heart rate of 70 beats per minute (BPM) would have a heart rate reserve of 116 BPM.  Just times HRR by the percentage and then add resting heart rate.

  • Moderate intensity 40-60% = 116 to 140 BPM
  • High intensity 60-85% = 140 to 169 BPM

It’s really that simple.

For beginners, start at the lower end of the ranges and work your way up as you become better conditioned.

I’m working on creating a downloadable form to make this even simpler to get your personalized numbers.

And remember that with training your resting heart rate will actually decrease over time.

Have any questions about other lingo used in the health and fitness industry?  I’d be happy to help answer any questions that you may have.  Just leave a comment below.



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