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Endurance Training and How to Measure Target Heart Rate

Man on bike demonstrating endurance training

There is no doubt that endurance training provides many positive effects on health. Improved metabolism, reduction of cardiovascular risk, and reduced cardiovascular mortality are some of the biggest ones.

If you think about it, it makes sense doesn't it? The more endurance exercise you do, the harder your heart has to pump blood to circulate throughout the body. The harder your heart has to work, the stronger the heart becomes. In fact, in a scientific article by Morici et al., it states that one part of the heart called the ventricle undergoes "hypertrophy and dilation" during exercise, while another part increases in contractility to pump blood at an increased rate.

heart for cardiovascular health

What is Endurance training?

Endurance training, also known as aerobic exercise, is a type of training that increases breathing and heart rate, mostly above 50% of the maximum, and primarily uses the aerobic system. Endurance training can be divided 2 types: general and specific endurance. Specific endurance is tied to the execution and skill of the sport whereas general endurance is for the general population. Exercises like running, biking, swimming, and HIIT workouts are all types of endurance training.

As mentioned previously, both the WHO (World Health Organization) and CSEP (Canadian Society for Exercise Physiology) both recommend 150 minutes of vigorous or moderate intensity of aerobic exercise per week. But what exactly is vigorous or moderate intensity? That depends on your age, and can be predicted by using a simple formula below.

Calculating your Target Heart Rate during Exercise

According to the CDC, for moderate-intensity exercise your target heart rate should be between 64% and 76% of your maximum heart rate.

To estimate your maximum age predicted HR, subtract your age from 220, then multiply that number by 0.64 to get the target heart rate at 64% and then 0.76 to get the target heart rate at 76%.

For example, for a 35-year-old person:

Age predicted maximum HR: 220 - 35 years = 185 BPM

64% Target Heart Rate: 185 x 0.64 = 118.4 bpm

76% Target Heart Rate: 185 x 0.76 = 140.6 bpm

Thus, the target heart rate for moderate intensity exercise for a 35 year old will be between 118.4 bpm and 140.6 bpm

For vigorous-intensity exercise, your target heart rate should be between 77% and 93% of your maximum heart rate.

To figure out this target range, follow the same formula as above, but change 64% and 76% to 77% and 93%. Let’s use the same 35-year-old below:

77% Target Heart Rate: 185 x 0.77 = 142 bpm

93% Target Heart Rate: 185 x 0.93 = 172 bpm

Thus, the target heart rate for vigorous-intensity exercise for a 35 year old will be between 142 bpm and 172bpm.

How to take your heart rate:

To figure out whether you’re within the target heart rate range, you can get a heart rate monitor such as an apple watch or Fitbit to measure your heart rate during exercise. However, if you do not have this, you can do it manually.

Photo illustrating how to take your pulse manually
Find the radial pulse by putting the index and middle finger on the wrist in line with the thumb

To manually measure your heart rate:

  • take a pause in your exercise (ie: right after a set, or by pausing for a brief moment)

  • find your radial pulse by taking your middle and index finger and placing them on your wrist in line with your thumb. Press lightly.

  • Take a stopwatch and measure the amount of beats you feel in 15 seconds. Start the 15-second count on a beat, where the first second is 0.

  • Multiply by 2.

So there you have it! An intro to endurance training, the global and Canadian recommendations for it, how to measure your heart rate, and how to measure your target heart rate for moderate and vigorous intensity exercise.

Until next time,

Kinesiologist and personal trainer taking a headshot
AJ Orprecio, R.Kin, BSc. Kinesiology


Centre for Disease and Control Prevention. Target Heart Rate and Estimated Maximum Heart Rate. Last reviewed June 3, 2022. Accessed from:

Morici G, Gruttad'Auria CI, Baiamonte P, Mazzuca E, Castrogiovanni A, Bonsignore MR. Endurance training: is it bad for you? Breathe (Sheff). 2016 Jun;12(2):140-7. doi: 10.1183/20734735.007016. PMID: 27408632; PMCID: PMC4933620.

Kate Gazendam, Genevieve N. Healy, Peter T. Katzmarzyk, William Kennedy, Kirstin N. Lane, Amanda Lorbergs, Kaleigh Maclaren, Sharon Marr, Kenneth E. Powell, Ryan E. Rhodes, Amanda Ross-White, Frank Welsh, Juana Willumsen, and Mark S. Tremblay. 2020. Canadian 24-Hour Movement Guidelines for Adults aged 18–64 years and Adults aged 65 years or older: an integration of physical activity, sedentary behaviour, and sleep. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism. 45(10 (Suppl. 2)): S57-S102.

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