Target heart rate can be a great way to train to ensure you are training in a zone appropriate for your goals! Most of you know the 220-age formula (indeed, if you’ve ever been on a piece of cardio equipment, you’ve seen the breakdown by age stickered somewhere on it) but what you may not know is the science behind this particular bit of training “gospel” is limited to observational data compiled in the 1970′s.
Fast forward decades to research presented at the American College of Cardiology’s 63rd Annual Scientific Session. Researchers from the Mayo clinic collected information on 25,000 patients who underwent stress testing between 1996 and 2006 and started looking for commonalities in the data. Here’s some of what they found:
- Max heart rate does decline as we age but that men and women experience fundamentally different slopes in their decline. Women decline more gradually than men. This results in the overestimation of peak heart rate younger women can achieve and underestimation of the peak heart rate of older women when using the original formula.
- Young men have a lower resting heart rate and a higher max heart rate than women and that men experience a more dramatic rise in heart rate and a quicker return to resting heart rate than women.
- The results from this study indicate that women ages 40-89** should expect their maximum heart rate to be 200-(age x.67).
- Men can calculate their HRmax using 216-(age x .93).
**A word of caution: since the data for this research based on people undergoing stress tests for reasons other than pure research, there were not very many woman under the age of 40 included in the data (there aren’t very many women under the age of 40 having reason to have a stress test in any given year). So for our purposes, you need to keep in mind that this is a research limitation and this information may or may not be directly applicable to females under the age of 40.
Remember these are guidelines for training! Although these formulas are a step up from 220-age because they have a larger base of data and improved method of collecting that data (not to mention they take into account the physiological differences between men and women!), these formulas are not gospel for you as an individual. We each have a little bit difference physiology, so you still need to pay attention to how your training feels and what kind of results you’re getting! Even if you’re training at the perfect pace according to the formulas, remember there is a certain amount of art in mixed into the science of training. If the pace feels off for you, it may be time to bring in a coach to take a look at your training program.
What does this really mean for your training? We’re going to talk about that next time!