The Karvonen Formula is a mathematical formula that helps you determine your target heart rate (HR) training zone. The formula uses maximum and resting heart rate with the desired training intensity to get a target heart rate.
Target Heart Rate = [(max HR − resting HR) × %Intensity] + resting HR example
See our Karvonen Heart Rate Calculator
Ideally, you should measure your resting and maximum heart rate for more accurate results. If the maximum heart rate cannot be measured directly, it can be roughly estimated using the traditional formula 220 minus your age (see this table of heart rate max). Also, an average value of 70 bpm can be used for resting heart rate if it is not known. See also Resting Heart Rate, and this guide to measuring heart rate.
Example Training Heart Rate Zone
For example, for a 25 yr old who has a resting heart rate of 65, wanting to know his training heart rate for the intensity level 60% - 70%.
His Minimum Training Heart Rate:
220 - 25 (Age) = 195
195 - 65 (Rest. HR) = 130
130 x .60 (Min. Intensity) + 65 (Rest. HR) = 143 Beats/Minute
His Maximum Training Heart Rate:
220 - 25 (Age) = 195
195 - 65 (Rest. HR) = 130
130 x .70 (Max. Intensity) + 65 (Rest. HR) = 156 Beats/Minute
His training heart rate zone will therefore be 143-156 beats per minute.
- See our Karvonen Heart Rate Calculator
- Heart Rate Training Ranges
- About Maximal Aerobic Speed (MAS)
- All About Heart Rate and Exercise
- Table of maximum heart rate
- measuring heart rate
- About your heart rate and exercise
- See also related article 'Weight Management and Heart Rate Monitors'
- Heart Rate Monitors in the fitness store.
Commenting is closed on this page, though you can read some previous comments below which may answer some of your questions.
- Adrian (2014)
I'm 70 at Christmas. The Karvonen formula suggests that my max heart rate should be 150 but mine seems to be in the low 130's. My resting rate is around 35. When I use the 150 figure the ranges for workouts are too stressful so I have adapted workouts to my numbers. However, I'm concerned that my resting and max HR are so different than the numbers on this site. Should I be taking this info to a doctor? Is there reason for concern?
- Ren Tohimaru Adrian (2016)
Your resting heart rate is pretty low. Do you have a preexisting condition? If not, this is definitely worth bringing to your doctor. I don't know exactly where it should be at your age, but it is absolutely higher than that. Your max heart rate isn't too bad-could just be a matter of conditioning, but figure out your resting.
- Inf3rno Adrian (2016)
According to wikipedia these formulas have serious limitations (e.g. I have about 200 HR max with the age of 30 according to my HR monitors). So don't worry that much. If you feel bradycardia symptoms, you should visit your doctor, otherwise this might be normal for you. Btw. did you visit the doctor? :-)
- Ldyluck Adrian (2014)
My resting rate had always been around 40. Eventually I learned I had a serious valve problem and a PFO (hole in the heart between chambers), and an enlarged heart, even though I had no symptoms. Open heart surgery saved me. It's still not clear to me whether the slow pulse should have tipped me off earlier; but, yes, I'd mention it. Good luck!
- Concerned reader ldyluck (2014)
I agree with the previous poster. Normal resting heart rates are 60-100 bpm. Athletes often have rates in the 50s but resting heart rates in the 30's is not normal and you should see your doctor as soon as possible to rule out a serious abnormality
- Terrance (2014)
I have found that my max HR varies considerably depending on a number of factors. The most important factor is the type of exercise I am doing. Running and stair master can get my HR up the highest, but if I bicycle or row, I can't get my HR up nearly as far, even at maximal effort. You really have to determine your own max HR on the particular exercise you intend to use for training purposes. I think the best way is to just do a functional test ... after warm-up, start at some moderately high level, go for 2 minutes, then increase the speed or incline by a fixed amount every two minutes. Just keep going until you simply can't go any higher or any longer. The highest HR achieved is your max HR. I've found other factors can affect my max HR as well. Mostly these relate to what sort of training I have been doing over the last week or so.
- Inf3rno Terrance (2016)
To my experience, the heart rate depends on the waste heat your muscles produce and the oxygen they need. If your blood and sweat glands cannot deal with the waste heat efficiently, your heart rate will increase. If you are short of breath, your heart rate will increase. So for example by 35°C I have 20 more average heart rate than by 20°C at same speeds. On my last race I tried to keep medium heart rates (<165) on the first 14 km, and when I had a heart rate about 185 I realized I can reduce it to 165 simply by breathing 2 times slower (20/min -> 10/min). I experienced a bit of tingling in my muscles due to less oxygen and so lactic acid fermentation, but it did not affect performance that much. I thought I usually breathe slowly enough (20/min) by running, so I did not think it can affect heart rate that much by me. Apparently I was wrong.
- Josh inf3rno (2017)
Please don't listen to anything @disqus_OiNq4NTt5C has been saying. He has no clue. Consult your doctor for real advice.
- Vince inf3rno (2017)
do you know anything about physiology?
- Inf3rno Vince (2017)
Actually the question has more to do with exercise physiology, which is a completely different topic.
- Roberto (2014)
Two problems here. First, it seems to me that "intensity" is a pretty subjective measure. Second, the age-220 formula has been pretty thoroughly debunked. So I'm back where I started, trying to figure out what my target heart rate should be.
- Anne (2014)
I'm a 63 year old woman who, with my doctor's encouragement, started jogging a couple of months ago. I'm now up to 5K. I seem to have always had a high maximum HR. Even in my 30's, it was common for me to comfortably exercise up to 220 bpm. According to the formula, my max HR now should be 130, which is merely a brisk walk for me. I'm regularly at about 160-162 or so during my workouts. I recover fairly quickly after cooling down. Any guidance?
- Inf3rno Anne (2016)
You should watch you HR max carefully. If you seriously overexercise, it will decrease and you will feel tired. If you don't experience such things, then there will be no problem. According to people I exercise with, you can lower your heart rate by doing long low intensity (HR~120-140) exercises like walking, jogging, cycling, probably swimming?, etc... I started to jog about 2 months ago (HR<140) instead of doing medium/high speed running exercises (HR~165-185) and it appears to slowly work, but I still need years to lower my heart rate at higher speeds. I think walking or cycling might be more recommended to you if you like those sports and you'd like to do sport with low heart rate.
- Malcolm watts (2014)
I am 75 and starting excercising seriously after 2002 when I had my second hip transplant. At that time and since my max heart rate is ~ 165, resting 60. My cardiologists are mildly surprised, but put down to normal population variation. For me the bigger question is why my blood pressure is ~135 over 55. The cardiologist claims its because my arteries are stiff, but my blood pressure goes down >15 mm Hg after excercise suggesting the arteries are flexible.
- Inf3rno malcolm watts (2017)
Actually what you really need is a "sport cardiology examination" or something like that, I am not sure about the translation. So a sport/exercise cardiologist should examine you and decide whether it is ok for you to sport. This is a special topic and normal cardiologists don't have the experience.
- Inf3rno malcolm watts (2016)
135 is normal blood pressure. You should stay below 140 (or 120 by ppl. with diabetes) and it will be okay. Be aware that the recommended blood pressure does not depend on your age. The 55 diastolic pressure is very low. Do you take any medication which lowers your blood pressure?
- Don't listen to inf3rno inf3rno (2017)
Please don't listen to this. There are so many variable to consider and based on previous posts by @disqus_OiNq4NTt5C he clearly is not a reputable source for medical information.
- Inf3rno Don't listen to inf3rno (2017)
I agree that online comments, websites, etc. are not reliable sources of medical information. Especially if we are talking about cardiology. Visiting az least 3 different cardiologists is the best way to know for sure whether he has a health issue.
- Amit patel (2018)
how to apply karvonan method practically basketball circuit training
- Chuck Cairns (2015)
There seems to be a fallacy in the Karvonen formula; the target heart rate increases as the resting heart rate increases, whereas you'd want it to be the other way around, right? Consider this: you subtract a percentage of your resting heart rate yet you add the total. If we were to consider the 25 year old above yet with a resting heart rate of 75 instead of 65, his range would be 147 - 159. You don't want the target heart rate to increase as the resting heart rate increases, you want it to go the other way.
- ThreeEyes Chuck Cairns (2016)
All target heart rates must be between the resting heart rate and the maximum great rate, by the definition of the latter two measurements. Karvonen scales your targets between those extremes. If you decrease the target as the resting increases, you would get targets that are *less* than the resting rate--and that doesn't make any sense!
- Guest (2015)
While many seem to be caught up in the details of heart rate and exercise, I hope we can all keep in mind the wisdom of "we are what we eat." proper consumption is equally important, especially as we age. Just came to mind when I began reading some responses about lower than normal hr and stiff arteries
- Anthony (2015)
This formula as well as others used to find HR ranges are based on averages from studies that looked at large populations. This means they are only guides. The only fool proof way to find out your Max is to take a VO2 Max test using a metabolic cart, treadmill being the gold standard.
- Michael (2014)
what is intensity level?
- Pcmtrain1 (2014)
Incorrect. You divide, not multiply.
- Don't do it (2014)
don't do this. just do not do this.
- Lenny Li (2018)
I am a short guy aged 45. In the past year I met my personal trainer weekly, and he directed me to use bosu, dumbell, kettlebell etc to exercise until i felt exhausted. However, after one year, the inbody shows that i got 10kg heavier instead of having less fat when i think i was just eating normally 3 times a day. To get in shape and fit, is it really necessary to eat 7 small meals a day with carefully planned/calculated portions of healthy food? The formula above seems to show me that my max training heart rate is about 144. But I noted then i ran on gym treadmill at a pace of 7km/hr that im comfortable with, my heart rate can easily go to 166. Does it mean that i should not move as hard/quick as i can, and instead slow down to 144 HR so th exercise is safe and effective? I thought to get results i should work as hard as i could... Please enlighten me, thanks!
- Phong To Lenny Li (2020)
Old post, but if you're still kicking, stop the 7 meals a day because of insulin. If you haven't, search for insulin and weight loss on google or Youtube.
- Tiffany (2014)
This traditional formula is only accurate for approximately 75% of the population. Medications can increase or decrease heart rate, example: Beta Blockers. Also some clients will struggle to find their heart rate, or if you are exercising with your arms up this will raise heart rate. Using a Rate of Perceived Exertion Scale (6-20) is a great way to track Training Intensity, ACSM recommends exercising with in an RPE range of 12-16. Hope this helps!