How High does your Heart Rate Go?!

How High does your Heart Rate Go?!

Are you a fast beater or slow beater?   Has it changed over the years?

You head to the gym and strap on your heart rate monitor.  First question, the computer asks you, how old are you?  Why?  It wants to know your maximum heart rate (HR max) so it can predict workout intensities. The generic formula is “HR max  = 220-age.” However, most of you know that after a few workouts, this formula is not great at predicting your maximum and therefore your workout intensities are not accurate.  You might be going too hard or too easy.   We have completed just over 3000 VO2 tests in 13 years….wow that’s a lot of beats!  Our daily advice for HR max determination is that there is no formula, we are all very different with different heart rates.  Have a look at the table below.  These are some of the participants who have been assessed more than once in our lab over the last 13 years.


VO2 test Participant Predicted HR max (220-age) Test 1
Actual HR max
Test 2 Actual HR max Age change between tests HR max change over time
KC 178 198 198 13 yrs 0
JB 185 171 178 11 yrs +7
CF 194 197 194 19 yrs -3
SC 181 175 175 6 yrs 0
JP 161 183 155 6 yrs -6
LP 160 189 176 8 yrs -13


As you can see, age is not a great predictor to determine HR max and exercise intensities.  Most interesting is that many active people hold their training heart rates for decades!  It’s great to say, my HR max is almost the same as it was 19 years ago (see CF in table).   I have discovered that over time when my HRmax decreases, it has been attributed to a lack of fitness and training instead of age!  We are all unique and should be treated as such when it comes to training.  So, the next time you hit the group exercise class, look only at your heart rate and try not to compare yourself to others as it is irrelevant.  Higher is not better nor is lower.  In order to get the most out of your training and your heart rate monitor, you should be assessed correctly.  Drop by TCR, your local lab or complete a test at home with a lot of encouragement from a friend!  Questions, please contact me at