The Scientific Way to Fitness

Listen to Your Heart
Maximum Heart Rate Facts That May Surprise You


• It is genetically determined; you are born with it.
• It is about the same for men and women.
• It may be higher for those with a small heart size
or mass and lower for those with a large heart size or mass.


• It can decrease from a sedentary lifestyle, but will always be “within your body” to achieve again.
• It is not an indicator of athletic ability and cannot be increased by training.
• It may be test-day sensitive particularly if you are not properly rested before taking a MHR test.

External Influences

• It is altitude sensitive, decreasing 1 bpm per 1,000 feet of elevation.
• It cannot be increased by eating certain foods or energy drinks.
• It can be affected by some medications such as beta-blockers (for high blood pressure).


• It can remain constant as you age if a high level of fitness is maintained. But…
• It varies greatly among people of the same age. Therefore age-graded or mathematical formulas are generally not accurate (such as 220 minus your age). See Max HR Test example to right.

Max HR Test


                              Runner "A"        Runner "B"

Age                         28                    28

Marathon Time        3:52                 3:32

1-Mile Test Time      6:53                 7:01

Max HR in test         161                  202


• It is sport specific and can vary by 20bpm depending on the sport. This is due to whether the sport is weight bearing and uses both upper and lower body muscles.

• Within the sport of triathlon, running will have the highest MHR, cycling will be next highest, and swimming will have the lowest MHR due to the cooling effect of the water and the horizontal position of the body. However, the difference in MHR is also related to the proficiency of the person in a sport. Some people may see a higher MHR in cycling vs running, if cycling is their primary sport.


It's the Secret Sauce!

VO2-Max Female


VO2 MAX is defined as the maximum rate at which you can extract oxygen from the air, then deliver it through the lungs and into the bloodstream, for use by your working muscles.

When muscles are consuming oxygen, they are working aerobically. As you exercise harder or run faster, oxygen cannot be delivered fast enough to provide all the energy you need, and your body starts to deplete muscles of glycogen (energy stored in muscles), so you begin to burn energy without oxygen ─ working anaerobically. As this energy is depleted, your muscles begin to produce lactic acid which builds up in the blood as lactate.


By undergoing a VO2 MAX TEST, you'll know your exact heart rate at various points, which will enable you to push your LT higher so you'll be able to exercise more aerobically. Ultimately, you'll be able to run faster and longer or exercise harder, but will be able to do it more comfortably and efficiently.


Heart rate female runner


How hard should you run?

By knowing your MaxHR, your training schedule will be written so that most of your runs are done at the EXACT intensity for the specific workout.

Not only will it take the guess work out of knowing your degree of effort (your intensity), it will help you to better understand how to equate pace with heart rate and how to set training intensities for your individual goals.

One of the benefits of being a runner and doing this test is that we perform the test while engaging in our sport, thereby making it a very accurate assessment. On the contrary, a basketball player or tennis player and most other athletes, cannot play their respective sport to determine MHR due to the non-continuous or non-aerobic nature of the sport.



In humans, the lower the number, the more fit you are. Elite marathoners can have resting heart rates in the mid-20's.

Do you know your resting and max heart rate? Contact us to find out how you can find out, and get fit too.

beats per minute

Elephants while standing = 30 bpm

Elephants lying down = 40 bpm

beats per minute

Cheetahs at rest = 120-170 bpm

Cheetahs after a chase = 200-250 bpm

beats per minute


In flight