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Reference Guide to Exercise Intensity

An In-Depth Look at Heart Rate, RPE and the Talk Test


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  • I appreciated this summary, but it really should be updated. Most research studies I read do not use the 220 minus age formula. It's my understanding that it was a reasonable guess made by a speaker on his way to a conference. For years I under-exercised, because I followed those charts on the cardio machines. I am now 59, and my maximum heart rate is 181; a far cry from the 220-59 = 161. I do, however, understand that is directed at beginners who may not consult a qualified medical professional before starting to exercise. I use a Polar chest strap and find it the most reliable; if I went by RPE, I'd never improve my fitness level. Thanks for considering my suggestions.
  • Thanks - great info!
  • Great information.
  • I wear a Garmin Heart Strap to spinning class which syncs to the bike's computer-- always good to know my HR while busting my hiney. I love my Garmin watch which always shows my HR.
  • Thanks! Great article!
  • Wow just calculated my maximum hr based on my rhr. Pleasantly surprised as I'm already working within the ranges given. I thought I wasn't working hard enough or hr was tii low... thanks sparkpeople for the clarity.
    I learn, then find out I need to learn more.
  • Be active any way you can, every day that you can.
  • I too was told by the doctor that because I had always been an active obese person, my heart had adapted to my body so I would have trouble reaching the calculated heart rate. She told me instead to make sure I broke a sweat and that the exercise was maintained for at least 10 minutes and to use the talking test. Seems to be working for me.
  • Also want to add, when I started exercising by doing workouts regularly when I was about 45 (after spending years just taking care of my family and not thinking about myself), I took a class at the gym and pushed hard, as I was used to as a teen and 20-something athlete, and I got light-headed and had to sit down. I was determined to keep pushing that hard and that was what I needed to do to get back into shape. The wise instructor advised me to get a heart rate monitor and told me about HR targets for working out. Just like this article. And it has been very helpful to me and I have kept an eye on my heart rate while working out ever since.
  • I didn't read through all the comments because there are a lot - but the ones I read mentioned the target rate being too high. For me it is too low. I am 58 and a runner. My age puts me into a lower HR by the calculations - I have a resting HR of 63 and I am 58. 85 % is 147 and I can hit that pretty early into a regular workout. 100% would be 160 and I easily hit the 160s in long slow runs. I took my high end target from what my heart rate is at the end of a 5k race when I go all out for the last 500 meters and it is 210, so I consider that my 100% HR. In my workouts, I like to maintain in the 180s for at least 30 minutes
  • Thanks. Thsi article reminds me of how to calculate heart rate at various stages. Also motivates me - another piece of data - and will help me to get the most out of my walking.
  • JMB369
    This was a really helpful article.mI have bradycardia, which is a slow heartbeat. My resting heart beat is about 48 bpm, so moderate intensity fir me is about 100-110! I like the idea of checking this against PRE and the talk test, as I walk with a friend 2-3 times a week. This week I am starting the 69-day walk program, so I'll be using these guidelines.
  • Very helpful and easy to understand article. Thanks for posting it.
  • Extremely help , simple guide to make sure you are getting the most out of exercise

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