Your ideal running heart rate depends on your age, size and current fitness level
Your heart rate increases during physical activity, such as running or other cardio exercise. Knowing the safe limits of heart rate during physical activity can help you know when you’re pushing yourself too hard.
In order to determine a good running heart rate, you first need to calculate your maximum heart rate. A general formula for this is to subtract your age from 220 and then figure out appropriate percentages:
- During moderate-intensity activity, your target heart rate should be about 50%-70% of the maximum.
- During vigorous physical activity, your target heart rate should be about 70%-85% of the maximum.
However, keep in mind that this is just a guide. A good heart rate to maintain while running depends on your age, size, current fitness level and other factors.
How is heart rate calculated?
Heart rate measures the number of times the heart beats in a minute, generally expressed as beats per minute (bpm). Your bpm is calculated by observing the carotid pulse (just below the angle of the jaw) for 15 seconds and then multiplying by 4. A stadiometer can be also used to measure your heart rate.
For most people, a normal resting heart rate (number of times the heart beats in a minute while at rest) is between 60-100 bpm. In highly active people like athletes, a normal resting heart rate may be as low as 40 bpm. Your average resting heart rate can be measured in the morning after a night’s sleep while you’re still in bed and before you’ve had anything to eat or drink.
What are target heart rates by age?
To determine your target heart rate zone, use the table below to find the age category closest to yours. For example, if you are 27, the age category closest to you is 30 years. Your target heart rate zone is therefore 95-162 bpm, which is 50%-85% of your average maximum heart rate of 190 bpm.
Table: Target heart rate for various ages (American Heart Association)
||Target heart rate zone (bpm) = 50%-85% of maximum
||Average maximum heart rate (bpm)
These figures represent average values. For more specific values unique to you, you should talk to your doctor. The only way to truly know your maximum heart rate while running is to have a maximal test (treadmill test) performed under a doctor’s guidance.
How to maintain a safe heart rate while running
Understanding ideal heart rates allows you to safely achieve your fitness goals, whether it’s building muscles or losing weight. If your heart rate is too high during an activity, it means your body is straining so you can slow down a bit. Conversely, if your heart rate is too low, you can exercise a little bit harder.
Keep in mind that if you are new to running or exercising, you should aim for the lower range of your target zone (50%) and gradually build up. Eventually, you should be able to exercise comfortably at up to 85% of your maximum heart rate.
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Medically Reviewed on 5/13/2021
American Heart Association. Target Heart Rates Chart. https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates
Memorial Hermann Foundation. Heart Rate While Running. https://memorialhermann.org/services/specialties/ironman-sports-medicine-institute/sports-science-tips/tips-for-runners/heart-rate-while-running