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Target Your Heart Rate for Better Health

Moderate exercise for 30 to 60 minutes on most days is good for your heart -- and your overall health. Your watch can remind you how long you've been working out, and a calendar can confirm how many days in the week you've worked out. But, how do you know if you're exercising at a moderate pace? That's why knowing your target heart rate is so important.

Your target heart rate is 50 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate, or how much work your heart can handle. It's a good way to gauge how fit you are and whether you're working out at a moderate pace. Exercise makes your heart stronger, so it doesn't need to beat as often. When you need to exercise more intensely to reach your target heart rate, it's a sign that you're becoming more fit.

Heart rate matters

If you exercise at your target heart rate for at least 30 to 60 minutes on most days, you may:

  • Reduce the risk for heart disease, high blood pressure, diabetes, and stroke

  • Control your weight

  • Lower cholesterol and high blood pressure

  • Reduce stress

Any exercise is better than none, but exercising below the 50 percent level may not give your heart an adequate workout.

Some considerations

It's important to check with your health care provider if you are considering an exercise program. Your provider may want to modify your target heart rate based on your situation. Some medications, such as those for high blood pressure, may affect your heart rate. This is just one example of why you want to check with your health provider.

If you're not currently active, start with a few minutes of activity every day. Then, increase the amount of time that you exercise and pick up the pace, but don't overdo it. If you hit a plateau, increase the intensity or length of your workouts. The lower the intensity of the exercise, the longer you'll need to do it to get results.

What to do

Walking briskly, bicycling, stair climbing, dancing, tennis, golf, swimming, and skiing are all moderate-intensity activities. But, doing any exercise that gets your heart pumping is a good place to start.