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Pulse & Target Heart Rate (THR)

What is your pulse?

Your pulse is your heart rate, or the number of times your heart beats in one minute. Pulse rates vary from person to person. Your pulse is lower when you are at rest and increases when you exercise (more oxygen-rich blood is needed by the body when you exercise). Knowing how to take your pulse can help you evaluate your exercise program.

How to take your pulse

Check your Pulse
  1. Place the tips of your index, second and third fingers on the palm side of your other wrist below the base of the thumb. Or, place the tips of your index and second fingers on your lower neck on either side of your windpipe.
  2. Press lightly with your fingers until you feel the blood pulsing beneath your fingers. You may need to move your fingers around slightly up or down until you feel the pulsing.
  3. Use a watch with a second hand, or look at a clock with a second hand.
  4. Count the beats you feel for 10 seconds. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate (pulse) per minute.

Count your pulse: _____ beats in 10 seconds x 6 = _____ beats/minute

What is a normal pulse?

Normal Heart Rates at Rest:

  • Children (ages 6 - 15) 70 – 100 beats per minute
  • Adults (age 18 and over) 60 – 100 beats per minute

What is maximum heart rate?

The maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate achieved during maximal exercise. One simple method to calculate your predicted maximum heart rate, uses this formula:

220 - your age = predicted maximum heart rate

Example: a 40-year-old's predicted maximum heart rate is 180 beats/minute.

There are other formulas that take into account the variations in maximal heart rate with age and gender. If you are interested in learning more about these more accurate but slightly more complicated formulas  please see these resources:

Please note that some medications and medical conditions may affect your heart rate. If you are taking medications or have a medical condition (such as heart disease, high blood pressure or diabetes), always ask your doctor if your maximum heart rate/target heart rate will be affected. If so, your heart rate ranges for exercise should be prescribed by your doctor or an exercise specialist.

Your actual maximum heart rate is most accurately determined by a medically supervised maximal graded exercise test.

What is target heart rate?

  • You gain the most benefits and lessen the risks when you exercise in your target heart rate zone. Usually this is when your exercise heart rate (pulse) is 60 to 80 percent of your maximum heart rate. In some cases, your health care provider may decrease your target heart rate zone to begin with 50 percent.
  • It is not recommended to exercise above 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. Intensity at that level increases both cardiovascular and orthopedic risk with minimal, additional health-related benefit from the exercise.
  • Always check with your health care provider before starting an exercise program. Your health care provider can help you find a program and target heart rate zone that matches your needs, goals and physical condition.
  • When beginning an exercise program, you may need to gradually build up to a level that is within your target heart rate zone, especially if you have not exercised regularly before. If the exercise feels too hard, slow down. You will reduce your risk of injury and enjoy the exercise more if you don't try to over-do it!
  • To find out if your are exercising in your target zone (between 60 and 80 percent of your maximum heart rate), stop exercising and check your 10-second pulse. If your pulse is below your target zone, increase your rate of exercise. If your pulse is above your target zone, decrease your rate of exercise.

What is your target zone?
Target Heart Rate Zones by Age *
Age Target Heart Rate (HR) Zone (60 - 85%) Predicted Maximum HR
20 120 – 170 200
25 117 – 166 195
30 114 – 162 190
35 111 – 157 185
40 108 – 153 180
45 105 – 149 175
50 102 – 145 170
55 99 – 140 165
60 96 – 136 160
65 93 – 132 155
70 90 – 123 150

Your Actual Values
(Actual values are determined from a graded exercise test)

Target HR: Max. HR:

* This chart is based on the the formula: 220 - your age = predicted maximum heart rate

For more information about exercise

Resources:

Your pulse and your target heart rate, Miller Family Heart & Vascular Institute at Cleveland Clinic, Preventive Cardiology and Rehabilitation Program, Cleveland, Ohio 216.444.9353

Talk to a Nurse: Mon. - Fri., 8:30 a.m. - 4 p.m. (ET)

Call a Heart & Vascular Nurse locally 216.445.9288 or toll-free 866.289.6911.

Schedule an Appointment

Toll-free 800.659.7822

This information is provided by Cleveland Clinic and is not intended to replace the medical advice of your doctor or health care provider. Please consult your health care provider for advice about a specific medical condition.

© Copyright 2014 Cleveland Clinic. All rights reserved.

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