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How to Find Your Ideal Heart Rate for Exercise

Finding Your Heart Rate

First, let's talk about how to find your heart rate. Try this: use your index finger and feel under your jaw line (close to your back molars) for a pulsing sensation. Next, count the number of pulses while looking at a clock for 10 seconds. Multiply that number by 6 and you have your resting heart rate.

Example: if you feel 10 pulses during the 10 second interval, your resting heart rate would be 60 beats per minute (bpm).

Exercise Guidelines

Now that we know how to find our heart rate and the importance of increasing heart rate to reduce cholesterol build-up...here are more specific guidelines on heart rate requirements for heart healthy aerobic exercise:

The American Heart Association officially recommends either:

  • 150 minutes of moderate aerobic activity each week


  • 75 minutes of vigorous aerobic activity each week

Practically speaking, 150 minutes of weekly moderate exercise could be 30 minutes/day for 5 days. 75 minutes of weekly vigorous exercise could be 15 minutes/day for 5 days.

How do you know what moderate vs vigorous exercise is? You can use your max heart rate to determine the following ranges:

Moderate aerobic exercise = about 55-70% of your max heart rate

Vigorous aerobic exercise = about 70-85% of your max heart rate.

How to Calculate Your Max Heart Rate

The basic formula is (220-your age). From there, you can calculate your moderate aerobic training range (55-70% of max HR) or vigorous aerobic training range (70-85% of max HR). Enter your age below to see your max heart rate as well as moderate/vigorous aerobic training ranges:

For example:

A 40-year-old would have a maximal heart rate of about 180. They could choose to exercise 5x a week for 30 minutes and keep their heart rate between 99-126 beats per minute (moderate range) or they could exercise 5x a week for 15 minutes and keep their heart rate between 126-153 bpm (vigorous range).

Not sure how to exercise within your heart rate guidelines? Check out this list of ideas!

-The Virtual PT

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