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Maximum Heart Rate

Athletes who use a heart rate monitor as a training aid need to identify their actual maximum heart rate in order to determine their appropriate training zones. Maximum heart rate (HRmax) can be determined by undertaking a maximum heart rate stress test which although relatively short does require you to push your body and your heart to the very limit. It can also be predicted using a formula but the variation in actual HRmax of 95% of individuals of a given age will lie within a range of ±20 beats/minute (Gellish 2007)[1].

Calculation of Maximum Heart Rate

The easiest and best known method to calculate your maximum heart rate (HRmax) is to use the formula

  • HRmax = 220 - Age

Dr. Martha Gulati et al

Research conducted by Gulati et al. (2010)[3] identified that the traditional male-based calculation (220-age) overestimates the maximum heart rate for age in women. They investigated the association between heart rate response to exercise testing and age with 5437 women. It was found that mean peak heart rate for women = 206 - (0.88 x age).

Londeree and Moeschberger

A paper by Londeree and Moeschberger (1982)[2] from the University of Missouri-Columbia indicates that the HRmax varies mostly with age, but the relationship is not a linear one. They suggest an alternative formula of

  • HRmax = 206.3 - (0.711 × Age)

Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) looked at other variables to see if they had any effect on the HRmax. They found that neither sex nor race makes any difference but they did find that the HRmax was affected by the activity and levels of fitness.

Studies have shown that HRmax on a treadmill is consistently 5 to 6 beats higher than on a bicycle ergometer and 2 to 3 beats higher on a rowing ergometer. Heart rates while swimming are significantly lower, around 14 bpm, than for treadmill running. Elite endurance athletes and moderately trained individuals will have a HRmax 3 or 4 beats slower than a sedentary individual. It was also found that well trained over 50s are likely to have a higher HRmax than that which is average for their age.

Miller et al

A paper by Miller et al. (1993)[4] proposed the following formula as a suitable formula to calculate HRmax

  • HRmax = 217 - (0.85 x Age)

USA Researchers

Evidence from USA researchers, Jackson et al. (2007)[5], identified the following formula as more accurately reflecting the relationship between age and maximum heart rate.

  • HRmax = 206.9 - (0.67 x age)

UK Researchers

Research by Whyte et al. (2008)[7] came up with with the following formulae for predicting maximum heart rates in both endurance and anaerobically trained athletes:

  • Male athletes - HRmax = 202 - (0.55 x age)
  • Female athletes - HRmax = 216 - (1.09 x age)

Miller, Londeree and Moeschberger

To determine your maximum heart rate you could use the following, which combines the Miller formula with the research from Londeree and Moeschberger.

  • Use the Miller formula of HRmax = 217 - (0.85 × age) to calculate HRmax
  • Subtract 3 beats for elite athletes under 30
  • Add 2 beats for 50 year old elite athletes
  • Add 4 beats for 55+ year old elite athletes
  • Use this HRmax value for running training
  • Subtract 3 beats for rowing training
  • Subtract 5 beats for bicycle training

Calculator

The following calculator will determine your Maximum Heart Rate (HRmax) for the various formulae discussed above. Enter your Age, Sport, Experience and then select the "Calculate" button.

Age -
Sport -
Experience -
     
   
     
Combined Londeree, Moeschberger and Miller HRmax= bpm
Londeree and Moeschberger (1982) HRmax= bpm
Miller et al (1993) HRmax= bpm
USA Researchers (2007) HRmax= bpm
UK Researchers (2007) - Male Athletes HRmax= bpm
UK Researchers (2007) - Female Athletes HRmax= bpm
M. Gulati et al. (2010) - Female Athletes HRmax= bpm

%HRmax and %VO2max

It is possible to estimate your exercise intensity as a percentage of VO2 max from your training heart rate. Swain et al. (1994)[6] using statistical procedures examined the relationship between %HRmax and %VO2max. Their results led to the following regression equation:

  • %HRmax = 0.64 × %VO2max + 37

The relationship has been shown to hold true across sex, age and activity.

Calculator

The following calculator will do the conversion for you. Enter a value, select the parameter (HRmax or VO2max) and then select the "Calculate" button.

Value= %
   
= %

VO2 max - using HRmax and HRrest

Research by Uth et al. (2004)[8] found that VO2 max can be estimated indirectly from an individuals maximum heart rate (HRmax)and resting heart rate (HRrest) with an accuracy that compares favourably with other common VO2 max tests. It is given by:

  • VO2 max = 15 x (HRmax ÷ HRrest)

VO2 and Power

It is possible to estimate your power (Watts) based on your VO2 max (L/Min).

  • Power = (VO2 - 0.435) / 0.01141

Referenced Material

  1. GELLISH, R.L. et al. (2007) Longitudinal Modeling of the Relationship between Age and Maximal Heart Rate. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39 (5), p. 822-829
  2. LONDEREE and MOESCHBERGER (1982) Effect of age and other factors on HRmax. Research Quarterly for Exercise & Sport, 53 (4), p. 297-304
  3. GULATI, M. et al. (2010) Heart Rate Response to Exercise Stress Testing in Asymptomatic Women. Exercise Physiology
  4. MILLER et al (1993) Predicting max HR. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 25(9), p. 1077-1081
  5. JACKSON, A.S. et al. (2007) Estimating Maximum Heart Rate From Age: Is It a Linear Relationship? Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 39(5), p. 822-829
  6. SWAIN, D. et al. (1994) Target heart rates for the development of cardiorespiratory fitness. Medicine & Science in Sports & Exercise, 26(1), p. 112-116
  7. WHYTE, G.P. et al. (2008) Training Induced Changes in Maximum Heart Rate. Int J Sports Med, 29(2), p. 129-133
  8. UTH, N. et al. (2004) Estimation of VO2 max from the ratio between HRmax and HRrest -the Heart Rate Ratio Method". Eur J Appl Physiol. 91(1), p.111-115

Associated References

The following references provide additional information on this topic:

  • TANAKA, H. et al. (2001) Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited. Journal of the American College of Cardiology37 (1), p. 153-156
  • KARVONEN, J., & VUORIMAA, T. (1988) Heart rate and exercise intensity during sports activities. Sports Medicine5 (5), p. 303-311
  • ASTRAND, P. O., & SALTIN, B. (1961) Maximal oxygen uptake and heart rate in various types of muscular activity’. rgo4 (192), p. 194

Page Reference

The reference for this page is:

  • MACKENZIE, B. (1999) Maximum Heart Rate [WWW] Available from: http://www.brianmac.co.uk/maxhr.htm [Accessed

Associated Pages

The following Sports Coach pages should be read in conjunction with this page: