Heart Rate: Target Heart Rate

The human heart rate is the measure of the number of times that the heart beats in one minute. Heart rate is used synonymously with the expression pulse rate. A target heart rate is the desired heart rate for a particular individual when engaging in physical activity of known length and intensity, calculated with reference to the person's age, level of fitness, and any physical limitations such as illness or disease.

Heart rate is one of the best known indicators of general physical fitness. The expected resting heart rate (when not exercising) for a healthy child is between 80 and 90 beats per minute, for a healthy adult female approximately 75 beats per minute, and for a healthy adult male an approximate figure of 70 beats per minute.

The determination of an athlete's target heart rate has a number of benefits. Establishing the appropriate target rate is of particular importance to two distinct classes of athletes: the elite competitor and the athlete who is either seeking to achieve a better fitness level or who has an identified cardiovascular limitation such as heart disease or other irregularity. For the elite athlete, the target rate is a guideline with which the athlete can plan the most effective training sessions; for the limited athlete, the target rate is a safety mechanism, which will aid in the prevention of a heart problem during exercise.

The calculation of a target rate is subject to a number of variables. For this reason, there are

Monitors, as shown here, are used to measure and observe the performance of the cardiovascular system.
numerous formulae that have been published as authoritative methods to determine the target. Whatever method is used, there are a number of common factors, including differentials for age and gender. It is a well-established physiological fact that as persons grow older, their heart capacity and their corresponding maximum heart rate diminish. Similarly, by reason of genetics, women have a slightly lower maximum heart rate than do men.

The generally accepted standard, subject to the consideration of personal levels of fitness or other factors, is that the maximum heart rate for a male will be approximately 220 minus their age; the target will be established at between 60% and 85% of the maximum. A number of high blood pressure medications are designed to lower the resting pulse of the individual; the presence of such medications would impact a target rate calculation.

SEE ALSO Biofeedback; Cardiovascular system; Heart rate monitors.