What Is HRmax?

Maximum heart rate, HRmax, is the highest number of heart beats per minute (bpm) an individual can achieve in an all-out effort. It is unique to the individual due to age, heredity, and fitness level. HRmax is a useful tool in determining training intensities, which are usually expressed as percentages of HRmax.

The first step in knowing the right intensity for your training is to find out your maximum heart rate, HRmax. The commonly used age-based calculation method uses the formula, 220 minus your age, for example, a 30 year old’s maximum heart rate would be, 220 - 30 = 190. The age-based method provides an average statistical prediction of your HRmax and is a good method for the majority of people, especially those new to heart rate training, to determine their maximum heart rate.

For those interested in a more individual specific calculation such as people who have been physically fit for many years or older people just beginning an exercise program Polar offers various models of training computers with unique features that determine a user’s individual maximum heart rate using the Polar Fitness Test. In the Polar Fitness Test the users resting heart rate, heart rate variability at rest, age, gender, height, body weight, and maximal oxygen uptake, i.e. VO2 max, are combined to calculate HRmax-p. The HRmax-p in Polar training computers gives the user the opportunity to determine and understand their unique maximum heart rate without performing an exhaustive maximal stress test.

Lastly, the most precise and accurate way of determining your individual maximum heart rate is to have it clinically tested by a cardiologist or exercise physiologist through the use of a treadmill or bicycle maximal stress test. If you are over the age of 40, overweight, have been sedentary for several years, or have a history of heart diseases in your family, clinical testing is recommended.