You're working up a sweat jogging while chatting with a buddy next to you, when you realize you're beginning to gasp out single words at a time. Have you ever wondered why this happens? The answer has to do with a thing called Maximum Heart Rate (MHR).

Next question: What IS MHR? MHR, simply put, is the fastest that your heart can beat while exercising. MHR is one way that you can tell how hard you've been working out.

Although raising your heart rate while exercising is expected in order to reap the benefits of exercising, it's also important to pace yourself and not tire too quickly. This is where target heart rate comes in. Target heart rate is the optimum heart rate at which you should exercise in order to benefit from the workout. So take it easy but not too easy!

Did You Know?
Your heart rate is higher when it is hot. Athletes regularly train in warmer places to avoid less drastic increases in their heart rate.

So how do we really know for sure when we reach our maximum heart rate? Firstly, you have to realize that MHR is different for everybody; some people are "slow beaters" and some are "fast beaters," and these labels do not necessarily mean that you are "out of shape" or "fit." Many things may influence your heart rate, including age, genetics, training and overtraining, illness, weather, hydration, and nutrition.

Did You Know?
Your MHR decreases as you grow older.

Traditionally, MHR has and continues to be calculated by subtracting your age from 220. This calculation is easy and simple, but researchers now say that this method is wrong. Apparently this formula was based on a rule of thumb from a few studies done in the early 1970s that is not really accurate for everyone.

Did You Know?
Training does not change your MHR, but it does slow down the rate at which MHR decreases with age.

While the only sure way to know your personal MHR it seems is to get a stress test - a medical procedure measuring how fast your heart is beating and how well your heart functions overall - there are some surprisingly simple ways to get a pretty good idea of how fast your heart is beating. Paying attention to simple physical cues like your breathing and the way you're talking can tell you a lot about how hard your heart is working.

So I guess you can say that talking IS good for you, at least while exercising!

Learn more!

Devlin, J. The Subtleties of Heart Rate.

Government of Ontario (2008). Target heart rate chart. Government of Ontario.

Hutchinson, A. (2008). How do I determine my maximum heart rate? Globe and Mail.

Marina is currently working on her Ph.D in clinical-developmental psychology at York University. Her research includes adolescent romantic relationships and she has always been fascinated by the topic of love and attraction. In her spare time she loves to read, listen to tin-pan-alley, and hang out with her family and friends.


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