A New Heart Rate Formula to Ignore (Sometimes)

I’m not one who has ever even thought about monitoring my heart rate while exercising to find out how much I’m pushing myself (or how much I should push myself), but if you are someone who likes to know how fast your heart is beating, you may want to re-calculate your maximum heart rate. The formula that most treadmills, personal trainers, and exercise scientists have been promoting for several decades (220-age) gives women a number that is too high. The new formula (206-age*.88) gives women a number that is more attainable and better for them. There isn’t anything wrong with being able to achieve (and maintain) a higher heart rate, but if you can’t achieve the number given by the old formula, this new one might prevent some discouragement and frustration.

It makes sense to me that women would be different from men in this regard, as in so so many others, and I am glad that researchers are studying women more rather than lumping them in with men. But I also think that paying too much attention to numbers and limits and studies can take some of the fun and enjoyment out of trying to be active and healthy. Sometimes I get a bit pre-occupied with trying to do the “right” thing or the “best” thing and I stress about not doing it or about all of the other choices I have. After a workout, maybe I don’t want to eat protein or carbs or whatever. Maybe if I do, it means that last slice of pie is going to go bad and I certainly don’t want that to happen. And maybe if I’m always monitoring my heart rate or my speed or whatever, I get discouraged that I’m not going faster or I can’t keep my heart rate up for as long as I’d like.

So, as always, I think it best to try to maintain some sort of balance. Time yourself, measure your heart rate, eat the super-healthful dish. But only as long as you enjoy it. Once you start getting discouraged or stressed or cranky about it, let it go. Eat a piece of cake and don’t feel guilty about it. Go for a run and don’t worry about whether you were doing 8:45s or not. It’s not worth it if it makes your life miserable.

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  1. Aw, man. I already have a crazy high heart rate. This just makes it look worse!


  2. lizzie

    July 7th, 2010 at 10:31 pm

    Hi Katy. I was under the impression that a high heart rate is a good thing when you are exercising. I guess if you have a really high resting heart rate, that might not be so great, but as long as you can maintain a high heart rate for a certain amount of time while you are exercising, it strengthens your heart and increases your endurance. At least that is what I understand. I’ll do some more research about that and report back.


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