Understanding Your Heart Rate

Posted On Apr 16, 2021 By BowFlex Insider Team

A person checking their heart rate.

When someone asks about your latest fitness routine, odds are it’s more digital than ever before. Whether that includes online workout classes, virtual leaderboards or wearable devices – connected fitness is now just, well, fitness.

With that being said, the amount of data we’re receiving from our personal apps and trackers can sometimes feel overwhelming in the pursuit of holistic health and wellness. So, what does all of that personalized data mean for your fitness journey?

Today we’re tackling one of the main aspects of fitness tracking: heart rate, and its role in cardiovascular health.

While this is one of the most common data points in today’s digital fitness journey, it’s not always clear what goals we should associate with heart rate, what it means for our overall wellbeing, and, sometimes, even what exactly the numbers mean. So let’s start with a couple of key definitions:

  • Heart rate measures the number of times the heart beats per minute (BPM). According to Medical News Today, the resting heart rate for anyone over the age of 10 should remain between 60 and 100 beats per minute.
  • Heart rate speeds up during physical activity and is often broken out into target heart rate zones. While the names of the zones may differ based on the source, the metabolic meanings behind what each zone represents remain similar. As an example, below is a breakdown from Ohio Health:
    • The “very light (or warm-up)” zone is often categorized as 50-60% effort and is key for getting your heart ready for more intense exercise, as well as in recovery afterward. Example BPMs for this zone anchor around the following:
      • 20-29 year olds – 100 BPM
      • 30-39 year olds – 95 BPM
      • 40-49 year olds – 90 BPM
      • 50+ year olds – 85 BPM
    • The “light (or fat burning)” zone increases metabolism and aerobic endurance. This zone is characterized as 60-70% effort and BPMs anchor around the following:
      • 20-29 year olds – 120 BPM
      • 30-39 year olds – 114 BPM
      • 40-49 year olds – 108 BPM
      • 50+ year olds – 102 BPM
    • The “moderate (or aerobic)” zone improves fitness capacity and power as it uses 70-80% effort. Example BPMs for this zone anchor around the following:
      • 20-29 year olds – 140 BPM
      • 30-39 year olds – 133 BPM
      • 40-49 year olds – 126 BPM
      • 50+ year olds – 119 BPM
    • The “hard (or anaerobic)” zone improves high-speed endurance and uses 80-90% effort to reach BMPs around the following:
      • 20-29 year olds – 160 BPM
      • 30-39 year olds – 152 BPM
      • 40-49 year olds – 144 BPM
      • 50+ year olds – 136 BPM
    • The most intense heart rate zone is called the “maximum zone” and encapsulates 90-100% effort and helps athletes develop speed. For those in their 20s and 30s, the BMP can go as high as 180-170 and for those in their 40s and 50s it ranges around 162-153.
  • The American Heart Association generally recommends a target heart rate of 50-70% of your maximum BPMs (not effort) for moderate exercise intensity and 70-85% of your max BPMs for vigorous exercise. According to Ohio Health, a person’s maximum heart rate can be calculated by subtracting your age from the number 220.
    • So, the max heart rate for someone aged 35 would be 185. This would put moderate exercise in the “light to moderate” zones (with BPMs ranging from 93-129) and vigorous exercise in the “hard to maximum” zones (with BPMs ranging from 130-157).

The benefit of recognizing these target heart zones, and understanding where your BPM falls during any given workout, is that you can leverage the data you may already be receiving each day from your smartwatch to better track your heart and cardiovascular health alongside your annual physician consultations. You can also use the data in real-time during a workout to know when to push more, or maybe even pull back a little, to achieve optimal heart health.