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Heart Rate Reserve

By Dr Ananya Mandal, MD.

Heart rate reserve describes the difference between a measured heart rate or the predicted maximum heart rate and the resting heart rate in a person. It indicates the heart rate reserve cardiovascular fitness of a person.

How to calculate heart rate reserve

The formula used to calculate the heart rate reserve is HRR = HRmax − HRrest.

As the heart rate reserve increases the HRrest has to drop. This is a beneficial parameter that is calculated by athletes to increase their performance.

Heart rate and oxygen consumption

Heart rate has a relation with oxygen consumption especially when intensities rise to reach ranges between 50-90% VO2 max. Thus exercise intensity is the percentage of maximum heart rate (calculated using the formula 220 - age).

A 30 year old who has a maximum heart rate of 190bpm thus may train up to 75% of his intensity at 143bpm.

The earlier formula “220 – age” makes no allowances for variations in resting heart rate among individuals.

The formula for heart rate reserve allows a better target heart rate to be determined for optimum training capacity based on both maximum and resting heart rate.

Calculating Target Heart Rate with Karvonen Formula

  • 220 - age = maximum heart rate
  • Maximum heart rate - resting heart rate = heart rate reserve
  • (Heart rate reserve X training%) + resting heart rate

Comparing the two formulas

To compare the two formulas, an example of a 45 year old man who has a resting heart rate of 60 beats per minute and who wants to train at 70% maximum is assessed.

Target heart rate in this individual:-

220 – 45 = 175 beats per minute. This is the maximum heart rate.

According to Karvonen formula (115 x 0.7) + 60 = 140.5

Thus 140.5 beats per minute is the target heart rate using this method.

Using the traditional 220 age formula this same person would have a target heart rate of (220-45 X 0.7) or 122.5

122.5 beats per minute is considerably lower than that estimated by the Karvonen formula.

Reviewed by , BA Hons (Cantab)

Further Reading

Last Updated: Jul 14, 2013

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