Determining maximum heart rate

Your heart rate has an upper limit, or maximum rate, called HRmax. HRmax is not a good predictor of fitness level or performance (it's mostly genetic), but it is used to quantify levels of intensity (as a % of HRmax).

You can determine maximum heart rate a number of ways:

1. Have your HRmax measured in a laboratory during a stress test.

2. Do a maximal effort and record the highest heart rate (not recommended for untrained individuals). This will give you a fairly accurate maximum heart rate, but is difficult to do properly. Remember that HRmax depends on the activity, so establish HRmax in the sports you do most often.

3. HR max-pscore predicts your individual maximum heart rate. This feature is included in several Polar computer models.

4. Estimate your maximum heart rate based on the formula 220 - age. This will give you a rough estimate, but is not nearly as accurate as the other methods described above.

For most individuals, maximum heart rate declines with age and values are usually between 170-200 bpm.