The American Heart Association advises 30 – 60 minutes of aerobic exercise 3 – 5 times a week.

Doing less than this will minimize your health benefits. Exercising 5 – 7 times a week will increase

your health benefits. Regular aerobic exercise reduces the risk of getting circulation problems,

strokes, and heart disease. Be sure to get a medical checkup before starting any exercise



Aerobic exercise uses large muscle groups for a continuous period of time. To handle this

workload, the muscles need more oxygen. This requires the heart to beat faster. Breathing gets

heavier and faster to take in more oxygen for the muscles. Exercise must be performed within the

aerobic heart rate range for the heart and lungs to benefit from the workout. This aerobic range is

generally between 65 and 85 percent of a person’s maximum heart rate. If you are severely

overweight or in poor shape, the aerobic range may be 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart



To estimate your aerobic heart rate range, subtract your age from 220. This gives you estimated

maximum heart rate. Then multiply your maximum heart rate by 65 to 90 percent. These numbers

are the low and high numbers representing heartbeats per minute in your aerobic range. These

numbers are an estimate of how hard your heart needs to work. A few pulse checks during

workouts confirm for most people that they are exercising in their aerobic range.


(220 – YOUR AGE) x .65 = LOW END OF RANGE

(220 - __________) X .65 = _____________ Divide by 6 for 10 second count=_________

(220 – YOUR AGE) x .90 = HIGH END OF RANGE

(220 - __________) X .90 = _________ Divide by 6 for 10 second count=_________

This formula is only an average. It does not apply for 30 to 40% of the population. To get a more

accurate number, you need to get your ‘resting heart rate’.


A true resting heart is obtained first thing in the morning when the body is completely relaxed but

conscious, before getting out of bed. Since even a true resting heart rate fluctuates, it’s best to

perform measurements on 3 consecutive days and take the average. Heart rates fluctuate

depending on the time of day, anxiety, stress, temperature, medication, smoking, eating and

drinking (especially caffeine). Resting heart rate may be palpated at the radial artery at the wrist

for a full minute. It is normal for some individuals to have respiratory sinus arrhythmia at rest,

meaning the pulse speeds up during inhalation and slows down during exhalation. It is also

acceptable to palpate the pulse at the carotid artery at the side of the larynx on the neck. To find

the carotid artery, place two fingers next to the outside corner of the eye, and gently slide the

fingers down to the neck. Do not apply too much pressure, or this will affect the blood coursing

through the artery. Baroreceptors in the carotid artery detect pressure and may reflexively cause

the heart rate to decrease. Normal resting heart rates are usually regular and are between 55 –

100 beats/minute, with the exception being aerobically trained athletes. If you’re heart rate is not

regular or not between 55 – 100, please let me know, and see your physician.


This method, which factors in resting heart rate, yields training ranges that correspond more

closely to percentage of functional aerobic capacity ranges.


(220 – YOUR AGE) = MHR (220 - __________) = _________

MHR – RHR = HRR _________ - __________ = __________

HRR x Low end % (60%) = THR (Low) __________ X .60 = _________

HRR x High end % (80%) = THR (High) __________ X .80 = _________

Divide by 6 for 10-secound count Low end Heart Rate / 6 = _________

High end Heart Rate / 6 = _________


MHR = Maximum Heart Rate

RHR = Resting Heart Rate

HRR = Heart Rate Reserve

THR = Target Heart Rate


This method is valuable for assessing and prescribing intensity for several reasons, including: it

may be used if participants are taking Heart Rate altering medications; it helps participants to

‘listen to their bodies;’ it provides and accurate gauge of approaching fatigue; and it is a widely

validated, reproducible tool for monitoring intensity. Rate of perceived exertion may be used in

conjunction with the heart rate method.

1 - Nothing at all, completely relaxed

2 - Very weak

3 - Weak

4 - Fairly light

5 - Moderate

6 - Somewhat Strong

7 - Strong

8 - Hard

9 - Very Hard

10 - Very, very Hard

11 - Maximal effort

For most fit individuals, a rating of 6 represents about 60% Heart Rate Reserve (the Low end of

the more accurate Heart Rate formula), and a rating of 8 represents about 80% Heart Rate

Reserve (the High end of the more accurate Heart Rate formula).


Do not worry. There is an easier method to determine if your exercising effort is within your

aerobic heart rate range. Simply rely on your breathing and comfort. You’re probably below your

aerobic range if breathing is comfortable and talking is easy. If breathing is deep (but not gasping)

and gabbing is not possible (but speaking is), you are exercising in your range. Being unable to

speak more than 3 words together is a sign that you are over your aerobic range.

Exercise that is performed within your aerobic heart rate range maximizes heart and other

systemic benefits. Once you are above your range, you are conditioning your ‘Anaerobic

Threshold’, which is beneficial to athletes, but is not generally a goal for fitness. ‘Anaerobic

Threshold’ is the point during exercise at which the work becomes so intense that muscle cells

cannot produce the additional energy aerobically, and so begin to rely more and more on the

anaerobic glycolytic pathway (lactic acid system to produce energy. At this level, lactic acid begins

to accumulate and the so called lactate or anaerobic threshold is reached. When a person is

aerobically fit, he or she can exercise at high levels of intensity without reaching this point, since

the body, through training, adapts to consuming and utilizing large quantities of oxygen.

Consequently, the anaerobic threshold, or level at which lactic acid begins to accumulate, is also

quite high.

However you choose to gauge your heart rate, doing so is essential to effective aerobic exercise.

With time and experience, you will become accustomed to monitoring your exertion level and how

to increase, decrease or maintain the level you desire. As part of the fitness regimen I suggest,

some days will be ‘slow and steady’ days, where you stay at the low end of your heart rate range

for a long period of time. Some days will be ‘high intensity’ days where you stay near the high end

of your heart rate range for a shorter period of time. Some days you will probably do ‘interval’

training, where you will perform aerobic activity at a middle level of your heart rate range, with

bouts of higher intensity to challenge the heart and lungs, increase aerobic capacity and burn


As with all exercise, the body becomes ‘trained’. This means that each muscle, organ and system

adapts to the activity it has been doing over time. To continue to achieve health benefits, each

muscle, organ and system will need to be challenged by varying your routine and intensity.