Your target heart rate (THR) is important because it gives you an indication as to whether you are exercising at a level of intensity to make the improvements you want. The simplest method of determining your THR is the age method.
Determining your Target Heart Rate
Step 1: Subtract your age from 220 (226 if you are a woman) to determine your maximum heart rate (MHR).
Step 2: Multiply your MHR by a percentage that is consistent with your goals (see below). For example, weight/fat loss requires a minimum THR of 60% of your MHR.
During your exercise session, you will then monitor your heart rate by holding two fingers at your carotid artery or the thumb side of your wrist and counting the number of beats for 15 seconds. Take that number and multiply by 4. If it is at or exceeds your THR, you are training intensely enough. If is below that number, you will want to increase the rate of your exercise. Maintain this pace for 20-30 minutes if you are a beginner and up to 45-60 minutes for intermediate to advanced walkers. Check your heart rate every 3 to 5 minutes to be sure you are maintaining the proper intensity. Heart rate monitors may also be used for this process.
Example: If you are 40 years old and want to burn fat, you will want to maintain a THR of between 60-70% of your MHR. 220-40=180. 180 at 60% is 108. 180 at 70% is 126. Your 15 second count should remain between 27 and 32 beats per 15 seconds. This would then calculate to 108 to 126 beats per minute (bpm).
Levels of Intensity for Different Goals
General Health: 50-60% of MHR
Fat Burning: 60-70% of MHR
Endurance Training: 70-85% of MHR