2000-08-19 / Sports

Fitness Forum… Ask The Personal Trainer

Dear Shaun,
By Shaun Ruskin

Fitness Forum…
Ask The Personal Trainer
Dear Shaun,

Every now and then I see someone jogging on the treadmill with their two fingers clenched to their neck or wrist, taking their heart rate. What exactly are they doing? What’s the correct way to calculate your heart rate? Is it beneficial? Should I do it?




I wish I could respond to this question without getting somewhat technical or using numbers, but I just can’t. It would definitely make answering a whole lot easier if I could. Personally, I’ve never been the type to take the easy way out, so I’m sorry, but I’m just going to have to go there. Now, it’s crucial that you read the entire column in order to understand completely. It may seem a bit confusing at the beginning and towards the middle, but don’t worry, it all comes together at the end, kind of like a murder mystery movie…just not as exciting.

Anyone who’s been inside a gym has seen this scenario before. Some guy (or girl) is trotting along on the treadmill, working up a good sweat. As he slows down and approaches the end of his jog, he puts two fingers on his wrist and stares at his watch. He is counting the number of times his heart is beating in one minute, to see if he’s achieved his target heart rate and accomplished a good workout. Everybody makes up their own target heart rate, depending on various factors, but you must know the proper formula in order to calculate it.

The easiest estimated calculation is to take the number 220 and subtract your age. So, if I’m 20 years old (I’m not), then I would take 220-20=200. I’ll then take the 200 and multiply it by a certain percentage to get my target heart rate. The percentages to use range from 50-85 percent of the 200. A beginner would gear more towards 50 percent of the 200, and someone more advanced would aim for 85 percent of 200.

Okay, if you’re lost, here’s an example that will make everything crystal clear. A 20-year-old guy in great physical shape, finishing his jog, wants his target heart rate to be 85 percent of 220 minus his age. After successfully finding his pulse on his wrist (using his index and middle finger), he counts how many times his heart beats in 10 seconds. He then multiplies that number by six, so it equals one minute (It’s easier counting for 10 seconds and multiplying by six, to get 60 seconds, rather than counting for a whole minute). He counts 28 beats in 10 seconds. Twenty eight times six is 170bpm (beats per minute). One hundred and seventy is 85 percent of the 200. So he successfully achieved what he intended his target heart rate to be. It never happens that exact, but you get the idea.

Remember, everybody’s target heart rate is different, you form it yourself. It all depends on how hard you’re willing to work, or what your aerobic fitness level is. If you’re a beginner, or just looking to exercise lightly, try to get your target heart rate around 50 percent of 220 minus your age. If your looking to lose weight and eventually work harder, gear more towards the 85 percent range.

Whether you jog, speed walk, or bike ride, if you can get your target heart rate up to the number you calculated, and hold it there for 20-60 minutes, three to five times a week, then you’re in for some great health and fitness benefits.

Okay Paul, try to take your heart rate next time you work out -- it’s fun -- and makes exercising more interesting. Just follow the directions in my example paragraph above. Yes it’s beneficial and yes you should do it. You’ll be fine. See you in two weeks and at the gym.


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