Sunday, August 15, 2010

Maximum Heart Rate for Women

Many serious exercisers pay close attention to their heart rates while exercising. That’s because they generally are advised to keep their heart rates within 65-85% of their maximum heart rate for a safe but relatively strenuous workout designed to improve aerobic capacity and endurance.

According to a formula for maximum heart rate that is now 40 years old (it was developed in the 1970s), your maximum heart rate should be around 220 beats per minute (bpm) minus your age. The formula is a population average, of course, and shouldn’t be taken as an absolute number for each individual. More importantly, the old formula was based solely on men subjects. Now a new study of over 5,000 healthy women indicates that a better population-based formula for women is:

Maximum Heart Rate for Women = 206 – (0.88 x age)

Admittedly the new formula has the disadvantage that it can’t be calculated in your head, but it’s easy enough to do with a calculator. And the difference may be significant: By the old formula, a 40-year-old’s 65-85% target range would have been 117-153 bpm. By the new formula, the target range for a 40-yr-old woman would be 111-145 bpm. Six to eight beats per minute might not sound like much, but over an hour’s workout it could make the difference between pushing yourself too far and getting discouraged, and just getting a good healthy workout.

The new study focused only on women subjects. Perhaps someone ought to confirm or revise the old formula for men, too!

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