Understanding Heart Rates

Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is a major cause of death in Australia, with 45,392 deaths attributed to CVD in Australia in 2015. Cardiovascular disease kills one Australian every 12 minutes.*


It’s no secret that physical activity is a key contributor in combatting heart disease so it’s important to understand how the heart works during heightened activity and how to work out your heart for optimum health.


During exercise, the function of your heart and lungs is to increase the flow of oxygenated blood, giving your muscles the energy to sustain activity. Whilst the lungs oxygenate blood and remove carbon dioxide, the heart works harder to deliver more blood to the muscles and lungs.


The more strenuous the exercise, the more your heart contracts or beats each minute. Your heart rate can increase from 60 – 100 beats per minute at rest, all the way up to around 200 beats per minute depending on your age, gender and fitness level.


So what should your heart rate be when you exercise? It depends on what your fitness goals are. For most people, a safe exercise target heart rate is between 50 – 75% of your maximum heart rate, expressed in beats per minute (bpm) for at least 20 to 30 minutes to get solid aerobic results. Your maximum heart rate (MHR) is the upper limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle during physical activity and is estimated by deducting your age from the number 220. This is the maximum number of times your heart should beat per minute during exercise.


If your goal is to increase your fitness levels, it’s a good idea to ensure you’re always training in your correct heart rate zone. There are five heart rate training zones available on the site to ensure when you’re training, whether it’s a light jog or fast walk, you know what level you’re training in.


50%-60% of your Max HR. The Fat-Burning Zone.

60%-70% of your Max HR. The Comfort Zone.

70%-80% of your Max HR. The Aerobic Zone.

80%-90% of your Max HR. The Threshold Zone.

90%-95% of your Max HR. The No Go Zone.


It’s not just exercise that affects your heart rate. Your beats per minute could be raised by a number of factors including hot weather, caffeine intake, hormones, stress, smoking and medications.


And remember, if you have a medical condition, are overweight, aged over 40 years or haven’t exercised regularly in a long time, see your doctor for a medical check-up before starting any new exercise program.


*Source: www.heartfoundation.org.au