Why Your Heart Rate Matters

Why Your Heart Rate Matters

What if I told you a heart rate monitor could change your entire workout routine, body and outlook on life? It's a bold statement, but understanding how to effectively push your body during a workout could be the key to losing those last stubborn pounds and transforming your body.

A heart rate monitor is a great tool to help you understand the intensity and effectiveness of your workout. By understanding your heart rate in relation to the exercise you do, you can see the results you're looking for much more quickly. Anytime you increase your awareness, your ability to make a change becomes easier.

To start, you need to calculate your maximum heart rate (MHR). There are several ways to do this.

1. The first way is the most common method used for calculation, however, it is a very general formula and is not always the most accurate method but it is a great place to start.

  • Subtract your age from 220. MHR = 220 - age

2. Runner's World has created a new way to measure MHR that seems to be more accurate for runners and athletes.

  • MHR = 208 - (.7 x your age)

Best for runners under 40

  • MHR = 205 - (.5 x your age)

Best for runners over 40

3. Finally you can do the old tried and true method of calculation, hit the pavement and get your heart pumping!

  • Make sure you are well rested, hydrated and have stretched.
  • Run hard and fast for 2-3 minutes. Repeat 2 more times and push yourself a little harder each time; on the last attempt, go all out!
  • Check your heart rate during and immediately after the last run. The highest number is your max heart rate.

Utilizing your MHR can give you better insight into the effectiveness of a workout. Depending on your goals and type of workout, the way you analyze your heart rate may vary.


When you are running, it is very important to check your heart rate to see if you can in fact push yourself harder. Beginners should keep heart rate at 60-70% of MHR for most of their workouts. This will ensure you are at a comfortable pace and rate for a longer duration run. Training in this zone allows your body to effectively use oxygen and strengthens your heart's ability to pump oxygenated blood throughout the body. At 70-80% of your MHR, your cardio-respiratory capacity increases, which is your body's ability to move oxygenated blood into muscle cells and remove carbon dioxide. Eighty-ninety percent of MHR is when the body is unable to remove lactic acid as quickly as it is made. Training in this zone helps increase lactic acid threshold and will help improve performance, but it is hard to train in this zone. If you are extremely fit, you can train at 90-100% of your MHR for a short amount of time. You will increase fast twitch muscle fibers, which will increase your speed.

Strength Training

There are mixed theories when it comes to monitoring your heart rate while lifting. It is always good to have an idea of your heart rate, but focusing on hitting certain levels may be distracting. Form, sets, weight and reps are more important to monitor while strength training than heart rate is. However, it is good to know how high your heart rate is climbing while you are pushing through a heavy set of reps. It can also ensure that you are pushing yourself hard enough to actually see a noticeable change. Aim to reach 80-90% of your MHR while actively lifting.

Weight loss/Active Lifestyle

The body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat in a moderate heart rate zone, about 50-70% of your MHR, but sustained calorie burn or afterburn is higher during shorter, higher intensity workouts where your heart rate is at 90% of MHR. Working out harder for shorter periods of time will burn more calories and fat in the long run than staying in a moderate heart rate zone.

A good approach to a balanced workout routine is to include endurance training, which will burn more fat and calories initially and mix that with higher intensity interval training (HIIT). Utilizing HIIT in your workout routine can help you see faster results with an increase in muscle and a decrease in fat. Your heart rate monitor will help you know how hard to push yourself and when you are truly at 90% of your MHR.

Understanding your MHR and how your heart rate is impacted by a variety of workouts, allows for a more efficient and effective workout regimen. Don’t forget that what you put into your body as fuel is also extremely important. Check out some of our post-workout recovery Blasts to stay properly fueled.

Registered Dietitian, Certified Specialist in Sports Dietetics

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