How was age predicted maximum heart arrived at?

OK so I joined a gym and got a personal trainer and I’ve been working out 5 days a week since late December.

I get on the treadmill in the morning for 25-35 minutes. Lately I’ve been pushing myself to better my distance which means running faster. The treadmill has these hand grips that give you your heart rate while you’re holding them.

My personal trainer has said that my “age predicted maximum” heart rate is 178 beats per minute or 220 minus my age. Where did those numbers come from? What does the number 220 represent?

She also says that that for maximum fat loss I should be working out at between 60 and 80% of my age predicted maximum any higher than that and I’ll be burning muscle mass and not fat stores. Is that true? Is it really that bad to push myself a little and get my heart rate up above 80% of my maximum?

I am very skeptical of the accuracy of the hand grips on the treadmill but if they are accurate then there have been moments when I’ve pushed myself to 100% of my maximum of 178. How bad is that? It certainly doesn’t feel bad though I can’t sustain that pace for more than a minute.

I suppose I could ask my trainer all of these questions but I’d like a fresh perspective. Anyone out there got any info on this?

It’s a great question - I have no idea where the 220-age rule came from either, nor the claim that above 80% you’re burning muscle.

I will say that the hand grips on the treadmill are probably pretty accurately getting your heart rate - if I take even one hand off the equipment at my gym for a couple of seconds - it realizes it and starts bitching at me to put my hands back. I use alternately the elliptical, a stationary bike, and a stair master, and all do that, so I’d imagine treadmills do likewise.

I don’t have any faith that the calories they claim you’re burning have much to do with reality.

Here’s a site that says the source was a 1970 study which was limited:

It’s just become “common knowledge,” and nobody’s refuted it.

I read an article a few years ago - sorry, I don’t have the reference for it - that interviewed the guy who came up with the 220 minus your age rule. He said he formulated the numbers - they seemed right - on basically the back of an envelope on his way to present his findings. Recent studies on top level athletes have shown there is a wide band in what max heart rate for an individual actually is. Some pople max out at 120, some at 160, others can crank along for awile at 190 or 200 or more.

No matter what, keep going to the gym.

What’s very strange was that I was going to start a thread on identically the same subject today and your post happened to be the first one.

I recently had a coronary scare that convinced me to exercise. I’m 36 years old, am between 2 and 80 pounds overweight, and exercise about once every other decade, so essentially I’m starting from scratch.

I originally started by trying to use the Body for Life method two months ago and I almost had a heart attack, which calls for three high endurance 20 minute workouts per week) and this made me sick as the proverbial dog. I asked my cardiologist during a visit this week and this is what he recommended:

Start your exercise cycle by concentrating on losing weight- not so much tone, not so much anything else, and don’t be in a rush. To lose weight and to accustom myself to exercise, he recommends 3-4 cardio workouts per week in the 55%-65% mhr range (which for me, as a 36 year old, is between 101-120 bpm) for at least 30 minutes and preferably closer to an hour each. (The lower the heart rate, the longer you should exercise).

After I’ve achieved some weight loss and become accustomed to exercise, he advised me to work my way into the 65%-85% range (for me, 121-156 bpm). For starters, he said to work my way up to 150 or so and hold it for at least a minute during my 55%-65% workouts, then go back down to 100-120 range for the rest of the workout. Increase the amount of time I spend in the 65-85% range during each workout gradually until eventually this is where I spend the majority of my workout; this is called the cardio range, and I only need to do this for 20-30 minutes to get the same benefit as the 30-60 minute fatburning 55-65% range, but he warned that if I immediately begin trying to exercise in the cardio range for most of the workout I’ll exhaust myself and probably dread exercise so much I’ll stop.

He cautioned for me to never exceed the 85% range because-
1- unlike muscle tone, endurance, etc., it’s impossible to increase your mhr and in fact it decreases with age whether you’re Marlon Brando or Jack Lalanne
2- above 85% you leave yourself exhausted rather than invigorated
3- above 85% increases rather than decreases the rates of cardiac problems and can toughen the muscles of the heart until they don’t pump properly

My doctor also recommended I buy a wristwatch style heart monitor; you can buy them knew for around $80 or off e-bay and other online stores usually for a lot less. (I got one on e-bay that works fine for $30.)

The workout I think I’m going to devise for myself, and I would greatly appreciate any “good idea/bad idea” input into this (and apologize for a possible hijack, but my question’s very similar to yours so it really shouldn’t be) is this:

Minutes 1-2: warm-up to the 55-65% range
Minutes 2-10: in the 55-65% range
Minutes 10-12: move into cardio range
Minute 12-13: try for 80-85% range
Minutes 13-15: cool down in cardio range
Minutes 15-30: 55-65% range
Minutes 30-35: gradual slow down to regular range

By this time next month I should be essentially indistinguishable from Brad Pitt (at least around the eyebrows).

Sampiro Thanks for sharing your experience. What your doctor advises is exactly what my personal trainer is advising. Keeping my heart rate between 115 and 150 (I’m 42) and alternating between high and low.

I have almost no faith in the heartrate thingy at the gym. Today after a minute of jogging it told me my heart rate was 53. I don’t think my heartrate is 53 when I’m sleeping. Another time I was barely walking fast and it told me my HR was 185. But most of the time the number seems appropriate for how hard I feel like I’m exerting. The times I was close to my max of 178 I felt like I was maxing out. I never stayed there long.

I didn’t know about the toughening of the heart muscle if it works too hard. That’s good information and I’ll certainly remember it. I may look into one of those wristwatch style heart monitors. Sounds like a good idea.

Thanks for your input CBCD and thanks for the link bup.

I’m afraid I’m not an expert on the details of maximum heart rate, but maybe I can offer some insight on the delinquent heart rates. Many of these machines are able to pick up the reading from external heart rate monitors - if the reading is way off what you’re feeling, it may simply be that the machine is picking up a nearby athlete’s sensor instead of yours. I can’t comment on whether it’s even doing that accurately! I know that where I work out, the treadmill interprets putting down my water bottle as a heart rate sensor.

To fix it? Get your own heart rate monitor, I suppose.