Target Heart Rate for Weight Loss

What intensity level are your workouts? Once you get the all-clear from your doctor, make sure you know what intenstiy level of exercise you are doing, as this can help you reach your health goals. Your level is determined by your target heart rate, and then using that number to get an intensity range. Here is how to calculate your target heart rate.

  • First, find your maximum heart rate. The formula for this is 220- your age. So a 40 year old would have a maximum heart rate (MHR) of 180, meaning their heart should not beat more than 180 times per minute while exercising. This number is the basis for the rest of the “math”, described below.
  • Next, count your pulse to determine beats per minute just after exercising. How close you are to your MHR will tell you your intensity level: A moderate-intense cardio would target 50%-70% of the MHR: 50% is considered on the lower end of a moderate workout, while 70% is considered a more intense workout. The numbers within this range is your target heart rate (90-126 beats per minute using the same 40 year-old example).
  • So, the 40 year old would want to target their heart rate between 90-126 beats per minute. A less intense workout is 90 heart beats per minute (180 x .50), and a more intense workout is 126 (180 x .70). Getting your heart rate closer to the higher end of the scale (closer to 70% of the maximum heart rate, or 126 beats for this example) can help more with weight loss goals.
  • If this person’s heart rate was under 90 bpm, they aren’t working out hard enough. If it went over 126, it might be too intense. But this mostly depends on whether or not you are new to exercise or not. A fit 40 year old that wants to do a vigorous workout (instead of moderate) would target 70%-85% of their maximum heart rate (126-153 bpm)
  • You don’t have to count your pulse for a full minute; you can count to 10 and multiply by 6 (use a stopwatch, phone with a timer, or clock with a second watch to count the seconds).
  • Someone new to exercise should target 50% of their maximum heart rate and then work their way up.
  • Count your pulse on your wrist, temples, or artery in your neck. Don’t use your thumb because the thumb has it’s own pulse and can make it hard to count.
  • Average resting heart rate (sitting down) for an adult is 60 to 100 beats per minute. The lower the resting heart rate, the more efficient your heart is (
  • Always listen to your body. Don’t overexert yourself. It takes time to build up your fitness level.

Shari Bresin, Family and Consumer Sciences Agent for Pasco County Extension
Posted: October 31, 2019

Category: Health & Nutrition, Work & Life
Tags: Cardio, Fitness, Goals, Heart Rate, Intensity

Subscribe For More Great Content

IFAS Blogs Categories