Our team of medical experts are ready to help

Your questions answered

Mrs Turner asked...

Tags: heart

I am a little worried about my heart rate. My resting heart rate is around 80bpm and during moderate exercise eg a 5k run it will very quickly (within 4 minutes of a 30 min run) shoot up to 180bpm - 190bpm and stay at that level throughout the run. I am concerned that this is very high?

  • mother-thermometer-doctor-at-hand

    Do you need to see a GP ASAP?


    Would you like to speak with a doctor by video or phone at a time that suits you?

    Our Doctor@Hand service, delivered by Doctor Care Anywhere, is available on a pay-as-you-go basis with prices starting at just £60 per consultation*.

    Quote AXA20 to receive a 20% discount. (* Prices subject to change.)

The Answer

The maximum heart rate for yourself is based upon a few quick calculations which you can perform for yourself or alternatively visit a ‘good website’ where a maximum heart rate and a target heart rate can be calculated for you to meet your age and physical intensity needs.  We would also suggest speaking to a personal trainer about your heart rate in relation to your running.

The maximum heart rate calculation is the standard calculation used by sports professionals and runners etc.  Some people can achieve greater heart rates than the following standard calculation.  When we are new to exercising we often wonder whether these high heart rates are a threat to our health and that we will have a heart attack, but more about that shortly.

The standard calculation  to find your maximum heart rate that you can achieve  safely is to subtract your age from 220.  This would mean that if you are 40 years old, you would subtract 40 from 220 to obtain a maximum heart rate that you could achieve safely.  In this example, your heart should achieve a maximum heart rate safely of 180 bpm.

Once you have obtained your maximum heart rate, you can now find out what should be your target heart rate, which should be based upon your age and  exercise intensity levels.  For moderate exercise intensity you should be achieving 50 – 70 percent of your maximum heart rate.  For very intense physical activity  you should be achieving a heart rate that gives you 70 – 85 percent of your maximum heart rate.  If you are new to physical activity, then you should try to obtain a  target heart rate that is  50 percent of your maximum heart rate.

This means that if you are 40 years old  and you want to find your target heart rate for running then you would subtract 40 from 220 to get 180 as your maximum heart rate.  To obtain the lower end of your target heart rate  (new to exercising) then you would multiply 180 by 0.5 to get 90 bpm.  To find your higher end target heart rate (70 per cent for intensive physical activity)  then you would multiply 180 by 0.7 to get 126 bpm.  This means that your target heart rate should be between 90 to 126 beats per minute if new to exercising and running.

Clearly, if we have had a life time of physical activity then we have a proven ability to withstand load tolerance on the heart from physical activity.  If we are new to exercising then we should be looking out for dizziness, chest pain and a pounding heart rate.  If you are new to physical activity then we need to start ‘conditioning’ our heart gradually, looking out for the symptoms previously mentioned.

We would suggest that for greater reassurance that you discuss your heart rate with a qualified sports coach at your local gym,  personal trainer, or speak to your general practitioner.   An understanding of  your heart rate in relation to your physical activity levels and your age can be difficult and that  a maximum and a target heart rate requires personalisation to you and any medical conditions that you may have.

Answered by the Health at Hand nurses  

Newsletter sign up

Sign up to our monthly newsletter, Better Health, to receive our latest health and wellbeing updates.

Sign up to newsletter