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What's Your Beat? Understanding Target Heart Rate at Rest vs. During Exercise

Yiwen Lu, MS, RD
July 2, 2024
July 11, 2024

Knowing your heart rate during exercise can help you determine whether your are working out at an appropriate intensity level. Over exerting your body can lead to fatigue, and even injury. Keeping your heart rate at a certain range can improve your exercise performance and prolong your endurance. Watch the video or keep reading to learn more about your heart rate targets.

Note: If you have any heart-related condition such as hypertension, make sure to consult with your doctor before starting any new exercise program. Some medications might alter your heart rate. Your doctor may recommend a different target heart rate from the general guidelines. Stop immediately if you feel any any unusual symptoms, such as chest pain or dizziness, during exercise.

What Is A Normal Resting Heart Rate?

For most adults, the normal resting heart rate is between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). Your heart rate can be influenced by factors such as stress, hormones, medication, and your level of physical activity. Athletes often maintain a lower resting heart rate because their heart muscles are in better condition due to regular exercise. In simple terms, this means their hearts don't have to work as hard at rest to maintain a steady heartbeat.

What Is My Target Heart Rate When Exercising?

Your target heart rate is depended on your age, medical background, and desired level of exercise intensity.

For moderate-intensity activities, we are aiming for about 50 to 70% maximum heart rate. For vigorous-intensity activities, the target heart rate should be about 70 to 85% maximum heart rate.

Maximum heart rate is estimated by 220 minus your age. For example, if you are 50 years old, your maximum heart rate is 170 beats per minute (bpm). If you are performing moderate-intensity activities, your target heart rate should be around 85 to 119 bpm; for vigorous-intensity activities, your target heart rate should be around 119 to 145 bpm.


How Do I Check My Heart Rate?

There are two main ways to check your heart rate (HR):

  • Using a wearable HR monitor like a Smart Watch or chest strap: Yes, this is definitely the no-effort method. Thanks to technology!
  • Checking your HR manually: Place your the tips of your first two fingers on the inside of your wrist near your thumb.
  • Count your pulse for 30 seconds and multiply by 2, or
  • Count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4, to get your bpm

Whichever way you use, remember that your heart rate is only a part of the picture. Your rate of perceived exertion means a lot, too!

What To Do If My Heart Rate is Really High or Low?

When your heart rate too high, reduce your exercise intensity! Which might include running slower, lifting lighter, or have longer resting periods. When it is too low, do the opposite and increase your intensity! If you are a beginner, aim for the lower end of your target heart rate range, then slowly build your way up if you want more intensity! Go slow, and go steady!


Whether you enjoy a lighter walks or you are into more intense activities such as cross-fit and hiking, check your heart rate during exercise periodically to ensure you are performing at an appropriate intensity level. This will help maximize your desired health benefits! If you have any heart-related condition, make sure to consult with your doctor first!

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