How to, and the importance of calculating your optimal heart rate for aerobic exercise


Calculating your ideal heart rate for aerobic exercise
Calculating your ideal heart rate for aerobic exercise

What is the ideal heart rate for aerobic exercise? 

The calculation is made with the following equation:

220 - (your age) x .7.

For example, the exercise pulse rate for a 25-year-old person would be 220 - 25 = 195 x .7 which equals 136. Therefore a safe cardio workout pulse rate for a 25-year-old person is approximately 135 beats per minute.  Aerobic workouts should be sustained for at least 20 minutes three to four times per week. Aerobic workouts are for people who are in relatively good health.  Those over 40 years of age should consider getting a checkup before they start an aerobic workout program.

Since it is not practical to stop and take a wrist pulse for 60 seconds while trying to maintain a workout pulse rate, an alternate method may be used.  The participant should use the carotid pulse, which can be easily obtained by taking the index and middle finger and pressing it into the neck along the side of the thyroid cartilage or voice box area.  Using a simple wristwatch that displays seconds, the pulse should be taken for six seconds, and the number obtained should be multiplied by 10. For example, if 12 beats were felt in a six second period, the exercise pulse rate would be approximately 12 x 10 or 120 beats per minute.

In order for any workout to truly be aerobic, the exercise pulse rate must be sustained for at least a full 20 minutes. While tennis, hockey, baseball, football, soccer and basketball are all healthy activities, they are not fully aerobic exercises.  This is because the level of activity increases and decreases with varying levels of activity, causing significant fluctuations in the pulse rate.  Walking, running, rowing, cross-country skiing, swimming, jumping rope, dancing, cycling and swimming, can obtain sustained exercise pulse rates.  Many health clubs offer cardiac workouts, such as spin classes, and combinations involving the treadmill, resistance exercises and cycling. While such programs may prove helpful, I cannot emphasize enough, those expensive gym memberships are not required for good healthy workouts.

Walking and running are likely the best exercises for the heart.  However, running can take its toll.  I am beginning to see quite a number of regular long-time runners with severe degenerative joint problems and back problems.  A number have had back surgery and hip replacement in their 40s.  This should be of particular concern to those people who have the family background that includes arthritic joints and back problems.  If possible, it is better to use a treadmill or stationary cycle for year-round convenience. In place of running, a combination of jogging and very brisk walking can be used, as long as the pulse rate stays in the aerobic zone. Walking with light hand held weights could also provide a great cardiovascular workout.