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September 15th, 2007

In simple terms your maximum heart rate (MHR) is the highest number of times your heart can beat in a minute. It is genetically determined. In other words you are born with it and it will vary from person to person.

There are a number of ways you can determine your maximum heart rate. These include:

• Laboratory testing
• Comfortable pace test/Graded three point test
• Mathematical formula

Laboratory testing
A laboratory test will normally be conducted on a treadmill or an ergometer. Studies have shown that MHR on a treadmill is consistently 5 to 6 beats higher than on a bicycle ergometer and 2 to 3 beats higher than on a rowing ergometer.

Laboratory testing is normally conducted by a Sports Scientist and is usually performed on conditioned athletes, i.e. individuals who have been training for many years. Typically, these tests will take you to your maximum where you are unable to continue with the workload that is applied.

Comfortable pace/Graded three point test
The Comfortable pace and Graded three point test are generally used to determine a persons aerobic threshold and should be performed on a treadmill or ergometer bicycle.
This method is used by some Personal Trainers and is suitable for individuals who are used to structured exercise but do not work out at high intensities.

This test is sub-maximal and is normally carried out on a treadmill or bicycle ergometer. It involves finding your “comfortable pace” and then increasing the workload in 3 stages.

Your heart rate is recorded at various intervals and plotted on a graph. The result, gives you an estimate of your VO2 (oxygen uptake) from which it is possible to extrapolate an estimate of your maximum heart rate.

Mathematical formula
There are many formulas that are used to calculate your maximum heart rate. At best they should only be used as a rough guide and in some cases can vary significantly from your actual maximum heart rate.

Most formulas take into consideration your age and gender, others also take into consideration your weight.

The most common formula that is in use today is:

Estimated MHR = 220 – your age

Estimated MHR = 226 – your age

A more recent but less well known formula is the “math-max” formula derived by Dan Heil Ph.D. of Massachusetts University. This formula takes into consideration your age, gender and weight. The formula is as follows:

Estimated MHR = 210 – (your age / 2) - (weight in lbs * 0.05) + 4

Estimated MHR = 210 – (your age / 2) - (weight in lbs * 0.05)

What is the point of finding out my maximum heart rate?
Knowing your maximum heart rate means that you can train more effectively and get the most from your cardiovascular sessions within the time you have available. You can target a session to work out in a specific heart rate zone.

Click here and you can find out your maximum heart rate and receive a free static health check.

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