Exercise and Target Heart Rate


What is heart rate?

Heart rate is often measured in Beats Per Min (BPM), refers to how many times our heart beat in one min (60s). Normal resting heart rate is about 60-80 bpm. Exercise heart rate is often higher than this range. We can measure HR by placing our index and middle fingers on our carotid pulse or radial pulse. Modern technology had allow us to measure it by Heart Rate Monitors (HRM), which comes in the form of watch and a chest strap. Popular brands for HRM are PolarTimexSunntoGarmin and New Balance.

Why measure Heart Rate?

1) Gauge level of exertion: We can know how hard we are working out, and whether do we meet our training goals and target. Measuring HR gives us a tangible feedback regarding our workout efforts.

2) Safety: Person can stay within a safety zone and not overtrain themselves. This is important especially for older adults or people with certain medical conditions.

3) Efficiency of training: Athletes may want to maximise their training efforts. Coaches are able to assess accurately the progress of their athletes and plan training program accordingly.

How to determine heart rate zone:

First we determine what’s our Maximal Heart Rate (MHR) using the formula:

MHR= (220 – Age) bpm

Eg. If a person is 30 years old, his MHR is 220-30=190 bpm.

Next, we can refer to the chart for target heart rate zone. THe zones are expressed in % of the MHR.


So, if our target is weight loss, we will aim to maintain our heart rate in the zone of 60-75% of his MHR.

60% of MHR= 60% x 190= 114 bpm

75% of MHR= 75% x 190=142.5 bpm

Therefore his heart rate zone for weight loss is 114-142.5 bpm.

From the chart, we can get a quick estimation without needing to do a manual calculation. Note that our allowance for heart rate is lowered as we age. The next chart shows the detailed explanation of each heart rate zones.


Manual Measurement:

We can place our index and middle fingers on our carotid(neck) or radial (arm) pulse as shown in the figure below. Instead of counting our pulse for a full min. We can count only for 10s, and then multiply it by 6. Alternatively, you can refer to this chart which that had already done the conversion for you, so you do not need to multiply by 6.


Alternative methods:

Measurement of heart rate zone can sometimes be inaccurate as the the exertion on heart differs from person to person. For example, a person exercising at 160bpm may feel very relaxed, whereas another person may already be struggling and  gasping for air. For this reason, alternative method can be used. A very well known method would be Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE). A scale of 0-10 is established, with 0 being no exertion, and 10 being the hardest. The details are shown in the chart below:


Handphone apps:

One surprising discovery i made recently is that there is a smartphone apps that can measure our heart rate! The name of the app is “Instant Heart Rate”  http://www.azumio.com/apps/heart-rate/

handphone HR1handphone HR2

With all the above methods, you can now measure your heart rate accurately and easily! Last but not least, wish you all a fun and safe time working out!


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