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FAQ: 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.

See also