HRmax = 220 − age
But, this was not developed from original research, but rather gained in popularity when Polar started incorporating it into their products. Use it as a guideline ONLY. There is a large inherent error in this formula and is no longer considered to have scientific merit for use in exercise physiology.
Numerous other formulas exist out there:
- HRmax = 206.3 − (0.711 × age)
(developed at the University of Missouri)
- HRmax = 217 − (0.85 × age)
(developed at Indiana University)
- HRmax = 208 − (0.7 × age)
(often referred to as the Tanaka method)
Another failing...they assume that gender makes no difference, and we know that gender plays a huge difference in how the body reacts to endurance activities. Northwestern University revised the maximum heart rate formula for women:
HRmax = 206 − (0.88 × age)
These figures are very much averages, and depend greatly on individual physiology and fitness. For example, an endurance runner's rates will typically be lower due to the increased size of the heart required to support the exercise, while a sprinter's rates will be higher due to the improved response time and short duration. In other words, the heart rate is probably the least important variable in comparing athletes fitness level.
So, can you adequately determine your maximum heart rate outside of a physical fitness facility with a defibrillator? Absolutely not. Its a real number, for sure...but to test it out, you need to break your heart. Now, that happens when we are teenagers often enough....but its not worth experiencing now, is it? So, take these calculators with a grain of salt. They are simply an estimate...nothing more, nothing less...and certainly nothing to hang your hat on!