How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate

How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate

Do you want to get the most out of those 30 minutes on the treadmill, or any kind of cardio exercise? You maximize the benefits of cardiovascular activity when you exercise in the zone of your target heart rate (THR). In general terms, your THR is 60-80% of your maximum heart rate. The Karvonen Method of calculating THR is one of the most effective methods of determining target heart rate because it takes into account resting heart rate. Here’s how to find your THR.


  1. Find your resting heart rate as soon as you wake up. You can do this by counting your pulse for one minute while still in bed. You may average your heart rate over three mornings to obtain your average resting heart rate (RHR). Add the three readings together, and divide that number by three to get the RHR. For example,

    (76 + 80 + 78) / 3= 78.

  2. Find your maximum heart rate and heart rate reserve.

    • Subtract your age from 220. This is your maximum heart rate (HRmax). For example, the HRmax for a 24-year-old would be

      220 – 24 = 196.

    • Subtract your RHR from your HRmax. This is your heart rate reserve (HRmaxRESERVE). For example,

      HRmaxRESERVE = 196 – 78 = 118.

  3. Calculate the lower limit of your THR. Figure 60% of the HRmaxRESERVE (multiply by 0.6) and add your RHR to the answer. For example,

    (118 * 0.6) + 78 = 149.

  4. Calculate the upper limit of your THR. Figure 80% of the HRmaxRESERVE (multiply by 0.8) and add your RHR to the answer. For example,

    (118 * 0.8) + 78 = 172.

  5. Divide the values obtained in steps 3 and 4 by the number 6 to obtain your THR in beats per ten seconds. For example,

    149 / 6 = 25 (lower limit)

    172 / 6 = 29 (upper limit)


  • When you take your reading for your resting heart rate, make sure to do so the morning after a day where you are rested, as trying to do this after a day of a hard workout can affect your results.

  • You should ensure during your workout that your heart rate falls within your target heart rate zone to maximize cardiovascular fitness.

  • A rule-of-thumb is that if you’re able to sing, you’re not working out hard enough. Conversely, if you’re not able to talk, you’re working out too hard.

  • One of the most common ways to take a pulse is to lightly touch the artery on the thumb-side of the wrist, using your index and middle fingers. This is called a radial pulse check.

  • You may also place two fingers below the jawline, along the trachea (windpipe) to feel for a pulse, again using your index and middle fingers. This is called a carotid pulse check.

  • When taking your pulse for ten seconds during a workout, stop exercising. Do not allow yourself to rest before taking your pulse, and immediately resume exercise after the ten seconds. Multiply by 6 and you’ll have your heart rate.

  • If you are serious about working out and becoming more cardiovascularly fit, you may want to consider purchasing a heart monitor for accurate readings during your workout sessions.

  • You can calculate your THR using the Karvonen method by online calculators, but if you take five minutes to do it yourself, then you will better understand the meaning of the numbers.


  • The target heart rate is an estimate only! If you feel yourself becoming exhausted, then you are working out too hard and should ease off.

  • Do not move your fingers in a massaging motion when taking your carotid pulse. This can lower blood pressure and cause dizziness.

  • If you are just beginning a workout plan, you should consider exerting yourself only enough to reach your THR lower limit.

  • Talk with your doctor before beginning any exercise program, especially if you have been leading a sedentary lifestyle.