Target Heart Rate:

Improve Your Stamina And Endurance By Reaching Your Target Heart Rate

By Janet Smith, PEERtrainer Health and Fitness Writer
We all know that when we exercise our heart rates are going to increase. So, why are so many people concerned about calculating and reaching a target heart rate?

To better understand why a target heart rate is important for any aerobic fitness program, you must understand aerobics. You also need to understand what happens inside your body as you perform aerobic activities.

The word aerobic means “using oxygen.”  To create energy for activity occurring for more than a few minutes your body must use oxygen to create adenosine triphosphate (ATP).  ATP is a molecule that’s required to produce energy in all living things.  Your body requires energy at all times, that’s why breathing and healthy levels of oxygen are so important.

Your level of aerobic metabolism determines the aerobic fueling of your activities. During aerobic exercise, you’re increasing the demands on your aerobic system.  More energy is required, so more oxygen and other nutrients must reach the cells in your heart, muscles, and lungs to perform the activity. This increasing demand causes heart rate and breathing to increase.  

What does this have to do with your target heart rate?  The goal of aerobics is to condition the body so your heart, lungs, and blood vessels are better able to convert oxygen to ATP.  To get these aerobic benefits you should aim for ten to twenty minutes of sustained aerobic exercise that is hard yet still comfortable. Tracking your heart rate is the simplest way to measure the level of intensity an activity has on your body.

By establishing and achieving your target heart rate during your exercise session, you know that you’re improving your body’s ability to perform aerobic metabolism.  In more simple terms, it becomes much easier to perform previously demanding tasks if the body is able to quickly convert oxygen to ATP with less stress. Find your target heart rate by first determining your maximum heart rate.  Your maximum heart rate is determined by taking 220 minus your age.  For example, let’s say your age is 40.  220-40= 180.   So, 180 beats per minute would be your maximum heart rate.  The next step is to determine your target heart rate per minute. 

Your target heart rate will depend on your current level of fitness and the level of intensity of the aerobic activity.  A target rate of 50% to 75% of your maximum rate falls in the range of moderate intensity level exercises.  Using the above example of a maximum heart rate of 180, a 50% target heart rate would be 90.  So the goal would be to achieve a target rate of 90 beats per minute for the duration of exercise after warm-up. 

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