Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Heart Rate Training Levels in Women

Individuals in the health industry as well as those who are just into their fitness know a long-standing formula for calculating maximum and target heart rates (HR).  We have generally thought of maximum heart rate as 220 minus the person’s age.  Based on this maximum heart rate, the target heart rate would be calculated as 65-85% of that value.  For example, a 30-year-old person’s maximum heart rate would be 190 beats per minute (bpm) and his target heart rate during training would be between 123.5 and 161.5 beats per minute.  This has stood as common knowledge for some time now but researchers at Northwestern Medicine in Chicago have found that this is not always the case. 
These researches have conducted a study of over 5,000 women to determine maximum and target heart rates.  Their results demonstrated that if women use this formula they may be calculating heart rates that are too high which could place them at risk, exercising over a safe threshold.  As trends of wearing HR monitors to constantly monitor target values increase, it is important that we have the correct targets in place. 
The researchers at Northwestern Medicine have found a new (not easy) formula for women to find their maximum heart rates.  The formula is 206 minus 88% of the woman’s age.  According to this new calculation, if that 30-year-old person mentioned before was a woman, she would have a maximum heart rate of 179.6 bpm not 190 bpm.  Based on this new maximum HR her target heart rate would be between 116.7 and 152.6 beats per minute.
It is important to point out that “there’s nothing wrong with achieving a higher heart rate with exercise, and if you can maintain that, it’s fine,” said Dr. Martha Gulati, a cardiologist and assistant professor of medicine and preventive medicine at Northwestern, who led the study. “But it might be that some women are getting tired and need to stop or slow down because they’re not able to maintain their heart rate at the higher level. But they’ve been using the wrong numbers.”1
If you are one of those women who has noticed difficulty staying in your target range during exercise consider using the new formula mentioned.

1.       The New York Times.  Recalibrated Formula Eases Women’s Workouts. July, 5, 2010. http://well.blogs.nytimes.com/2010/07/05/recalibrated-formula-eases-womens-workouts/

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