How to Calculate Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

You started exercising, but almost immediately discovered that the tracking app or smartwatch installed in your personal settings requires you to enter the maximum heart rate you can achieve during exercise.

What are the ways to know this value? We briefly and easily present the well-known formulas and methods.

Why know your maximum heart rate?

MHR (Maximum Heart Rate) will help you correctly identify training heart rate zones to track the intensity of the load received.

Traditionally, the intensity is divided into five pulse zones. All are calculated as a percentage of MHR. So, if the MHR is 190 beats, running on a pulse of 120 beats is 63% of the maximum heart rate. This is a light load – the first impulse zone.

90-100% of the MHR is considered competitive intensity: it is unacceptable to train often and for a long time at such indicators.

How to Calculate Maximum Heart Rate (MHR)

Calculation formulas

There are formulas for calculating the maximum heart rate, which are based on a person’s age and gender, but it should be understood that they give a certain error, since the value of the maximum heart rate depends on individual characteristics a particular person’s body, not just age and gender.

Formulas according to age

Haskell–Fox formula

(used since 1970)

Maximum heart rate = 220 – age
Londeri-Meshberger formula Maximum heart rate = 206.3 – (0.711 x age)
Tanaka formula

(published in 2001, considered the most accurate)

Maximum heart rate = 208 – (0.7 x age)
Miller’s formula Maximum heart rate = 217 – (0.85 x age)
Robergs-Landwehr formula Maximum heart rate = 205.8 – (0.685 x age)
Jackson Formula

(released in 2007)

Maximum heart rate = 206.9 – (0.67 x age)

Formulas based on age and gender

White formula Men: Maximum heart rate = 202 – (0.55 x age)
women: Maximum heart rate = 216 – (1.09 x age)
Formula Ball State University Men: Maximum heart rate = 214 – (0.8 x age)
women: Maximum heart rate = 209 – (0.9 x age)
Martha Gulati Formula

(published in 2010)

Women Only: Maximum heart rate = 206 – (0.88 x age)
Ostrand’s formula Men: Maximum heart rate = 220 – age
women: Maximum heart rate = 226 – age

Tests to determine the MHR

The most accurate way to find out your maximum heart rate is to do a lab or field test.

The laboratory test is carried out under the supervision of a specialist with medical training on sophisticated equipment. Load-to-failure tests are performed on a treadmill or exercise bike.

Field testing is simpler and doesn’t cost as much as lab testing, but you’ll still have to work hard at it. For the field test, you just need to wear running shoes and a heart rate monitor. After a good warm-up, run several times with maximum effort. When you can no longer keep running at top speed and you feel yourself slowing down, look at the readings on your heart rate monitor: the highest value will be MHR.

Here’s how:

  1. Invite a friend to ride a bike next to you while you run. This is best done in a stadium or on a highway with a gradual uphill grade.
  2. Put on a chest strap and give your assistant a watch with heart rate readings so only he can see the data. This is important because you don’t have to be distracted by the clock, you have to focus on the race.
  3. The protocol of the field test is similar to that of the laboratory with an increasing load. Begin the test at a slow pace (for most this is a heart rate of 100-120 beats per minute). Gradually increase your heart rate by increasing your running pace by about 5 beats every 15 seconds until you can’t increase it anymore.
  4. Your assistant should watch the clock and report the total time and heart rate every 15 seconds. If you can’t increase your heart rate by more than two 15-second intervals, it’s time to stop. By then you should have reached your MHR.

Any test requires preparation, and it is absolutely impossible to take the test on the very first day of your training. First, try to calculate the MHR using formulas (there are many calculators on the Internet with a further breakdown into heart rate zones).

Only when the body adapts to the loads can you attempt a lab or field test, but we recommend doing this under supervision.

Read more: What heart rate to run and what is PANO?