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Heart Rate Targeting for Aerobic Efficiency

Trying to attain a specific heart rate during aerobic activities is one way to increase your overall fitness and endurance (and the strength of your heart).

Monitoring your heart rate by taking your pulse is the best way to see if you are working at the correct intensity to be getting a full workout. If your heart rate is above or below the acceptable levels, you should either increase or decrease your effort.

40-70% MHR = Active Living Zone - Best for "fat burning" and general health. Work at the level that meets your needs.

60-90% MHR = Aerobic Zone - Best for improving efficiency of cardiovascular system.

60-70% MHR = Optimal Active/Aerobic Zone - This is the best zone to get all the benefits of fat burning, general health and improving your cardiovascular system at the same time.

MHR = Maximum Heart Rate


When measuring your pulse use index and middle fingers. Never use your thumb since it has it's own pulse.

When you feel your pulse, count the beats for 10 seconds and then multiply your 10-second pulse rate by 6 to determine your pulse in Beats Per Minute (BPM). Alternatively you can also count for 15 seconds and then multiple by 4. It really depends on personal preference.


Depending on your age and your physical condition your target heart rate will be very different. For athletes with strong hearts their heart rate will be 10% to 20% lower than a normal person because their heart is stronger and doesn't need as much effort to reach the same level of intensity.

You can also determine your target heart rate using the following mathematical formulas.

220-Age = Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

MHR × 40% = Low level of Active Living Zone

MHR × 60% = Low level of Aerobic Zone

MHR × 70% = High level of Active Living Zone

MHR × 90% = High level of Aerobic Zone

MHR × 65% = Is the halfway point between 40% and 90% and inbetween 60% and 70%, making it within your Optimal Fat Burn / Aerobic Zone.

Thus 220 - Your Age x 65% - Your Optimal Active/Aerobic Zone

Example: If you are 40 years old your MHR = 180. Times that by 0.65 to get 117, which is your optimal heart rate.


A great and easy way to determine what level of activity you are doing is to do the "Talk Test." Can you manage to carry on a conversation while being active? Then chances are you are working within your Active Living Zone. If conversation is impossible because you are too busy trying to breathe then you are within the aerobic zone.

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