Heart Rates and Training Zones

About Heart Rate

Resting heart rate and heart rate recovery can be a great indicator of health. Knowing your heart rate training zones will help you get the most benefit from your exercise session. This article assumes that you are not on any medications that may influence your heart rate response to exercise, like Beta Blockers.

Resting and Recovery Heart Rates

As your fitness level increases, you will generally find that your resting heart rate will decrease over time, and that your exercise heart rate will remain lower while performing activity. A conditioned heart will allow you to due more work with greater ease. It is a healthy indicator when heart lowers quickly after stopping exercise; dropping at least 12 beats per minute (BPM) within the first minute of stopping “moderate to high” intensity exercise.

Your baseline health measure is read by counting your Resting Heart Rate (RHR) for one full minute. A true resting heart rate is taken in the morning immediately after waking from rest with no other interfering stimulus; like TV, music, or alarm clock on and buzzing. This video shows how to count your resting heart rate. To find your true resting heart rate average 3-subsequent days readings, as your resting heart rate will vary slightly morning to morning.

A normal resting heart rate is between 60 to 80 beats per minute (BPM). 40-60 BPM may be considered “Athletic.” Most women naturally have higher heart rates than men. If your ever notice your resting heart rate up 10 BPM over your average this could be a sign that your body is overstressed or over-trained and it might be good to rest, hydrate, and to stock up on some good fluids to help your body recover full strength.

Heart Rate Training Zones Include:

  • Low Intensity, “Recovery or Fat Burning” zone
  • Moderate Intensity, “Cardiovascular” zone
  • Vigorous Intensity, “Metabolic conditioning” zone

Low Intensity Zone  Sometimes called the “Recovery or Fat Burning” zone. This zone burns fat energy at a very slow rate. Low Intensity zone is typically not an exercise zone, as it doesn’t get the heart and breathing rate high enough to be beneficial for cardiovascular conditioning. If weight loss is your goal don’t be fooled by the “fat burning zone,” this is not the best way to burn fat. You can still benefit from this zone by increasing activities of daily living, like standing at your work desk or while watching TV; taking the stairs; or taking frequent walk breaks or stretch break (more ideas here). This type of exercise still helps to burn calories and fat as well as provides a good recovery zone heart rate for high intensity training days.

Moderate Intensity “Cardio” Zone  is the recommended training zone for Cardiovascular conditioning when it’s maintained at least 10-minutes a session or longer. This zone is where you want to be with your regular workouts and is typically referred to as the Target Zone. This zone burns calories at an accelerated rate and helps make weight loss and weight management even easier.

Vigorous Intensity  While most people 40 years or younger can exercise safely in this zone, ask a doctor or fitness specialist if this zone is safe for you. This zone targets speed, performance, and metabolism. Most people are limited by their metabolic response to exercise. In this zone the body may be forced to operate anaerobically (meaning without oxygen).

Find your Training Zones

  • Option A: Quick and Easy – See this link for a Heart Rate Calculator
  • Option B: Slow and Accurate – Do the 3-step math (below)

Step #1  Calculate your max heart rate (HR MAX)

(HR MAX) = (220) – (AGE)

Step #2  Calculate your heart rate reserve (HRR)

(HRR) = (HR MAX) – (Resting Heart Rate)  

Step #3: Calculate your Target Heart Rate

A, Low target = (HRR) X (0.55) + (Resting Heart Rate)

B, High target = (HRR) X (0.85) + (Resting Heart Rate)

Low Intensity, “Recovery or Fat Burning” zone = Any heart rate “A” or lower
Moderate Intensity, “Cardiovascular” zone = Any heart rate between zone “A to B”
Vigorous Intensity, “Metabolic conditioning” = Any heart rate “B” or above