Maximum Heart Rate

As exercise intensity increases, so does your heart rate. Your heart rate, which is conventionally measured in beats per minute (bpm) can therefore be used as an indicator of exercise intensity.

How do I measure my maximum heart rate

Your maximum heart rate does not vary much with your fitness. (Your resting heart rate, by contrast, does.) Your maximum heart rate falls as you get older.

The best way to test your maximum heart rate is to do a running test which you can do on a track, in a park or on a treadmill. You should not do this without medical advice if you are over 50, if you are obese, or if you have any history of heart problems.

After warming up, run at an even pace for three minutes, as fast as you can. Jog for two minutes; then run again for three minutes as fast as you can. Your maximum heart rate is the maximum level reached during the second 3 minute run.

How can I estimate my maximum heart rate from my age and sex?

There are several different ways to estimate your maximum heart rate, based on your age and sex. The best known are:

Formula Men Women
Age adjusted MHR = 220 – age MHR = 226 – age
Ball State University MHR = 214 – (0.8 x age) MHR = 209 – (0.9 x age)
Londeree & Moeschberger MHR = 206.3 – (0.711 x age) MHR = 206.3 – (0.711 x age)
Miller et al MHR = 217- (0.85 x age) MHR = 217- (0.85 x age)

Please note that there is a wide margin of error around each of these estimates, of up to 15-20 beats per minute.

Why is my maximum heart rate different for different sports?

Your maximum heart rate will be different in different sports, because you use different muscle groups. Running uses the largest muscle groups in the body and so has usually causes the highest maximum heart rate. If you are cycling, you may experience a maximum heart rate about 5 – 10 beats per minute lower than in running. You should carry out a maximum test for your sport.

18 Responses to Maximum Heart Rate

  • Ray houserman:

    What is unclear is if max hb means anything. I have a resting rate of
    Of about 60 but it is almost impossible fo me to get my rate over 140.
    I am 61 yrs old but during a vigorous workout my rate stays in the lower
    120′s. Does this mean I’m unhealthy?

  • david:

    I have the issue of when I do a training run at my race page my heart rate is around 130 to 140.
    when I enter a race for the same pace, over a similar terain, my rate is 140 to 150. I am 60 years of age.
    is it just excitmet of the race environment or should I train more?

  • Andy:

    I am 50 and therefore should have a Maximum heart rate of 170. However, I often exceed that on a run (a 2 mile run recently got to 174 and when training in the gym the other day I got to 176). I check my heart rate at rest last week and it was 54. I’m obviously a high beater, so is there another way to calculate my maximum as traditional 220 – age type calculations don’t seem appropriate for me.
    Also, is this something I should be concerned about?

  • Graham:

    I am 59, and today I did 3.6 Km on the treadmill at avarious speeds betweent 11 and 13.2 kph. My average HR was 156, the highest 171. I have to say that sounded scary. I finished my 3,6 Km in 17 m 36. I have to say, The treadmill is without doubt a sight easier then running on the Thames towpath in the Kingston Park Run!

  • wanda:

    I’m having an issue with my average heart rate being 203 on my 10 mile runs in the mornings 2 days a week. My resting heart rate is between 50-52 and I am 48 years old. Normally on Saturday I run 13 miles at a 9.00 mile pace and it runs any where between 147-151. On Tuesday and Thursday mornings I run 10 miles at a faster pace of anywhere between 8.00 pace and 8.30 mile pace, and ususally have heart rate around 161 but the last 2 weeks on my faster pace runs I have had yeart rates up to 211. Is the heat and humidity causing this or should I be concerned?

    • Feri Naf:

      I think you should check your heart rate monitor and/or verify this measurment by counting heart beats and watching the clock. I guess the heat and humidity are causing your equipment false reading.

  • william:

    Hi i have just started running after a 7 year absence, I have smoked all of my adault life and am trying really hard to stop, I started running a program of walking, running starting at run a min walk 2 , 7 times ,this is the start of my 4 week and i ran for 3min walk 2, 7 times and felt good so i ran the 7th time for 6 min and my reart rate reched 78 bpm, I am 59 do i need to be concerned.

  • Sarah Z:

    I have a question regarding my weird heart rate range.

    I have just decided to improve my fitness to an average marathon level for the first time in my life. I have yoyoed between only slightly higher than average good fitness and lousy fitness all my life – however in general terms I would consider myself of having been average good-to-slightly below average for the last 10 years (I am 30 years old). In general I am also healthy, with a normal weight, no allergies, hardly ever sick, flexible and energetic.

    I remember already some years ago of having measured my max heart rate at somewhere 210-215.

    This week I self-measured my heart rates to set my target zones again: I sprinted as fast as I could pretty much as was advised above: 1st sprint gave me 204bpm; 2nd sprint gave me 216bpm. I understand the general calculations (220 – age etc.) are only indicative, but how can I be that much off the scale? Is that normal or even healthy? Secondly, my rest rate (I took it in the evening on the couch after some meditating, since I never remember to do it in the morning!) and got 58. I suspect early morning would give me lower.

    So: I am very unfit at the moment, not able to run faster than 7-7.5km/h for longer periods, and can hold 8-9km/h pace for only a minute or so. When running around 7.5km/h, after a few minutes my heart rate is somewhere close to 175-180; I feel exhausted, but can still keep going. With a pace 7km/h I get somewhere down to 160bpm.

    How can my heart rate range be so big when I am this unfit? (58-216?) Does this pose any risks, or benefits for that matter?

    I tried googling for explanations but wasn’t successful – if someone could explain this like to a simpleton, I would appreciate it! :)

    • Bzoow:

      I am not an expert but before you investigate much further I would check your max readings with another HR monitor as your max at 216 sounds high and max HR does not usually vary much with fitness.

    • Enric:

      No big deal. Heart Rate can be that high, don’t worry. It’s a pretty normal value.
      It doesn’t mean much, anyway.
      Your max is determined genetically and varies wildly among individuals. It has no relation to yoUr fitnss and a higher or lower value has no meaning at all in regard to your performance. It’s just as your height. And it can not be determined by a formula.
      The use of your maxHR is just to determine your training zones and has no further importance.

  • jason tanzman:

    I also seem to fall in the category of someone with a max heart rate that appears to fall significantly higher than what the formulas predict for someone of my age (29). Over the winter, I was doing some laps In the indoor track where I workout and routinely clocked my heart rate in the 205-210 range (using simple old math and the big clock on the wall, so no risks of HR monitor error). And I have a resting HR in the 55-60 as a moderately healthy young guy.

    I’m also training for a marathon – my first – with a goal of finishing in around 4 hours. For me – and I think you’re in a potentially similar situation – I am shooting for around a 140-150 bpm rate on my mid and longer training runs. Which – even if your max HR is 215, the 65% mark would be 140. The main thing I’m learning with my marathon training is to slow down; slowing my HR down below when I tend to want to push it, and focusing on sustaining a slower pace to build stamina and endurance. I did an 8 mile run in one hour, 27 minutes the other day, just focusing on building longevity with an HR in the 140-145 range and I felt great afterwards.

    • Ryan Morelli:

      Hey Jason.. Interesting reading your post, I felt like I was reading my experience/questions. You must have ran it already? How’d it go? (who knows if you’ll ever see this) I’m training for LA 3-9-14. I’ve read A LOT and apparently it’s SLOW DOWN…can you confirm that for me? I’m running halfs at about 9:40 which is a bit slower than your goal of 4M at 4:13. However I’m pretty beat up at that point. I read from a guy who did 56 marathons and he said first one? HOLD BACK. If you really did hold back…you can figure that out at mile 20 and put on the gas, you can make up a lot of time in 6 miles if you’re feeling that good. I tend to agree with his logic, plus I’m 40. Love to hear how you did…and any advice


  • Gene C.:

    I will be 63 this year and have been exercizing 3+ times a week. My max rate should be 75 – 85% of 158 but I go heavy at about 180-185 for an hour each time. Any less than that I am not hardly working out. That is about 115%- 120% of max. At the end of the hr, I am rested in 10 min. Whats up?

  • Matt:

    Hi there everybody, I think its a good idea to check your blood pressure a couple hours after a run to make sure its returned to normal 120/80 approx, if not check it next day and if its still too high take it easy until it returns to normal. Once its returned to normal start running again, then afterwards do the same check again, if its a consistent problem have a word with your Doctor.There are quite a few runners in their 60s with high blood and not knowing about it, so adapt your running so you avoid still having blood pressure the next day, as you get older your arteries become less flexible and they can’t expand to let the extra blood through.

  • erin:

    I have been running for over 20 years and am a 42 year old woman. I just finished a half marathon with an average heart rate 170 for the full 13.1 miles. I was surprised to see my heart monitor results because I felt pretty good during the race. I was working hard but not too hard. I do think the formula for maximum heart rate doesn’t apply to everyone. According to most literature I should only be able to hold this for a few minutes not for 1:47 minutes.

    • Ryan Morelli:

      interesting.. and makes sense. of course we’re all different. they’re just averages. Mine averages around the mid 150′s for anything up to a half. Not sure I can keep it at that for 26…. I might need to be 140-150 and slow the pace.

  • tariq jalees:

    I am sixty one year old male. Iam running/walking on thread mill since last one year at 5 km per hour. Previously i was /running/walking for thirty minutes which i since one month have increased to fifty minutes. Maximum pulse rate as shown by the thread mill 131. Some one told me I am over doing. Please advise. by the way i am a heavy smoker as well

  • Rina Saja:

    I am 35 years old. I started running at August 2012. My first 5K was 40.31. Since then i started to increase my miles little by little, up to 25 miles/week now :). My 5K pace PR last week was 23.09. This Monday I started to use my HRM, My long run usually between 8.15-9.00 min/mile, however my heart rate is staying the same at 160 (3 days ago). Today my heart rate is about 150 and i was running 6.30-7.00/mile for my speed training. What happen to me? I was trying to be faster but my heart race increasing so slow when i was speeding up. Do you think I can be faster in my running if I could increase my heart rate? Is that any exercise to increase heart rate and making me run faster? I am looking for 20 min 5K. Thanks for your help.

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