Pulse and Target Heart Rate

About your pulse?
Your pulse is your heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats in one minute. They vary from person to person and each individual's pulse is lower at rest and increases when we exercise because more oxygen-rich blood is needed by the body when you exercise.

Knowing how to take your pulse can help you evaluate your exercise program. If you are taking heart medications, recording your pulse on a daily basis and reporting the results to your health care provider can help your provider determine if the medications are working properly.wrist-pulse.gif (8955 bytes)

How to take your pulse
Place the tips of your index, second and third fingers on the palm side of your other wrist, below the base of the thumb. Or, place the tips of your index and second fingers on your lower neck, on either side of your windpipe.

2. Press lightly with your fingers until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. You may need to move your fingers around slightly up or down until you feel the pulsing.neck-pulse.gif (17280 bytes)

3. Use a watch with a second hand, or look at a clock with a second hand.

4. Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by 6 to get your heart rate in beats per minute.

Check your pulse: _______________ x 6 = ________________
                          (beats in 10 seconds)          (your pulse)

What is a normal pulse?

Age Group

Normal Heart Rate at Rest

Children (ages 6-15) 70-100 beats per minute
Adults (age 18 and over) 60-100 beats per minute

What is maximum heart rate?
The maximum heart rate is the highest your pulse rate can get. To calculate your predicted maximum heart rate, use this formula:

220 - Your Age = Predicted Maximum Heart Rate

Example: a 40-year-old's predicted maximum heart rate is 180. (220 - 40 = 180)

Your actual maximum heart rate can be determined by a graded exercise test.

Please note that some medications and medical conditions may affect your maximum heart rate. If you are taking medications or have a medical condition (such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes), always ask your doctor if your maximum heart rate/target heart rate will be affected.  If so, your heart rate ranges for exercise should be prescribed by your doctor or an exercise specialist.

Target heart rate
You gain the most benefits and lessen the risks when you exercise in your target heart rate zone. Usually this is when your exercise heart rate (pulse) is 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. In some cases, your health care provider may decrease your target heart rate zone to begin with 50 percent.

Do not exercise above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This increases both cardiovascular and orthopedic risk and does not add any extra benefit.

Always check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program. Your health care provider can help you find a program and target heart rate zone that match your needs, goals and physical condition.

When beginning an exercise program, you may need to gradually build up to a level that is within your target heart rate zone, especially if you have not exercised regularly before. If the exercise feels too hard, slow down. You will reduce your risk of injury and enjoy the exercise more if you don't try to over-do it!

To find out if you are exercising in your target zone (between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate), stop exercising and check your pulse. If your pulse is below your target zone (see the chart below), increase your rate of exercise. If your pulse is above your target zone, decrease your rate of exercise.

Age Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60-85%) Predicted Maximum Heart Rate
20 120-170 200
25 117-166 195
30 114-162 190
35 111-157 185
40 108-153 180
45 105-149 175
50 102-145 170
55 99-140 165
60 96-136 160
65 93-132 155
70 90-128 150
Your Actual Values Target HR Max. HR