Stay in your target zone for a safe, effective workout.
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The target heart rate zone for women is the same as the zone used for men. But this zone is based on your maximum heart rate, which should be calculated differently for women. Use the appropriate formula to estimate your maximum heart rate and use precaution if you exercise while pregnant.
The American Heart Association recommends exercising at 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. This recommendation is for women as well as men. Working out in this range ensures that you get the cardiovascular benefits of exercise without pushing your body beyond its limits. When you are new to exercise you should start at the lower end of the range. According to the American Heart Association you can gradually increase the intensity of your workouts to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate over the course of six months.
Calculating Your Maximum
The traditional formula for estimating maximum heart rate is 220 minus your age. But this may overestimate the maximum heart rate for women. For a more accurate estimate use a formula that's tailored to women: 206 minus 88 percent of your age. For instance, if you are 30 years old your maximum heart rate would be 180 beats per minute. That would make the low end of your target 90 beats per minute and the high end 153 beats per minute.
According to Dr. Roger W. Harms, M.D., writing for MayoClinic.org, experts in the past recommended exercising at a heart rate no higher than 140 beats per minute during pregnancy. But according to Harms there is no longer a set heart rate limit for pregnant women. But Harms cautions that pregnant women should be able to carry on a conversation while exercising. If you are pregnant and plan to exercise, consult your physician before you start.
Checking Your Heart Rate
Check your pulse periodically while working out. Place the tips of your first two fingers on your opposite wrist, over your veins. Press them lightly against your wrist so you can feel your pulse. Time 10 seconds on a watch and count the number of times you feel a pulse in this period. Multiply the number by six to get your heart rate in beats per minute. Alternatively, you can use a heart rate monitor to track your heart rate with ease.