Your target heart rate is the point during exercise at which you reach maximum benefits of physical activity. The number is slightly different for everyone, but the more often you can reach it, the healthier you are likely to be. But Dr. Edward Laskowski, co-director of Mayo Clinic Sports Medicine, says the actual number is less important than the effort and mindset to reach it on a regular basis.
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Regular exercise can make your heart stronger and more efficient.
"Well, we want that target heart rate range," Dr. Laskowski says. "And that means we're working hard enough that our heart is getting beneficial activity and beneficial exercise."
He says you should get about 30 minutes of moderate activity at least five days a week.
"And moderate is something that you're — you're breathing kind of hard, but you can still hold a conversation."
That should get your heart rate up to the target range. Studies show that the level of exertion you feel during moderate levels of activity correlates well with heart rate.
Dr. Laskowski says any physical activity is good, but to maximize health benefits, you should push yourself a bit.
"We're getting good blood flow," he says. "We're training our heart muscle to work more efficiently, and ... actually strengthening it. So if we ... don't do that — if we're doing too light — we won't get as much of the beneficial effect."
But Dr. Laskowski says the actual numbers aren't as important as the effects.
"Again, we don't have to be concerned that much about the number," he says. "It's how we feel. As long as we feel we're working moderately hard and ... we're getting some good activity, we're doing good things for ourselves."