What are Heart Rate Zones?

If you’ve been curious as to how hard you’re training in your running program, heart rate zones are a great way to monitor the intensity of your workouts. An effective training plan includes different types of workouts that vary in intensity, duration, and frequency that are spaced out to allow time for your body’s recovery. 

What Is Frequency?

Frequency refers to how many times you exercise during a specific period of time. Duration is the length of your workout, usually counted in minutes. Intensity is a little more complicated- and when you look at heart rate zones, it’s a good marker of how hard your body is working while you exercise. Some workouts should be longer and lighter, and some should be shorter and more intense. The variety is what makes your workout regimen more effective. Your heart rate is a great indicator of how hard your body is working during physical activity. It’s a tangible number you can measure, just like duration and frequency.

What Are Heart Rate Zones?

You may be familiar with resting heart rate, minimum heart rate, and maximum heart rate. Between these different values are heart rate zones that directly correspond to training intensity and benefit. There are multiple ways to pinpoint your heart rate zones calculation. The easiest way is to specify them as percentages of your maximum heart rate. 

Heart rate zones are closely related to your anaerobic and aerobic thresholds. This knowledge can help when you’re considering heart rate zones for exercise, especially when you’re calculating your heart rate zones for weight loss or running. There are five different heart rate zones that are based on the intensity of training in regards to your maximum heart rate. What are the five heart zones?

The Five Heart Zones

The five different heart rate zones range from 1 to 5, and your exercise plan should include workouts that span through all five heart rate zones. Here’s a heart rate zones chart that shows the level of intensity and percentage of maximum heart rate that is in each one. 



Percentage of HRmax

Zone 1

Very light


Zone 2



Zone 3



Zone 4



Zone 5




Here’s what each heart rate zone means and the benefits that come from exercising in that heart rate zone. 


Zone 1

In heart rate zone 1, you’ll be performing very light exercise at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. It’s a very low intensity zone, and training in this zone will help to support your recovery and allow you to get ready to train in the higher heart rate zones. In zone 1 intensity, you can pick a form of exercise that will allow you to easily control your heart rate. Examples of zone 1 exercise include cycling, jogging, walking on a treadmill, or brisk walking, all forms of exercise that increase blood flow in the body. 

Zone 2

In heart rate zone 2, you’ll be doing light exercise at 60-70% of your maximum heart rate. At this intensity, you should feel that you can perform this level of exercise for a long time. In this zone, you’ll be improving your overall endurance, and your body will get more competent at burning fat while your muscular fitness increases along with your capillary density. Doing exercises that keep you in heart rate zone 2 is an important part of every exercise program. Examples of exercise that fall in heart rate zone 2 include using an elliptical machine, stationary bike, swimming, walking, and rowing. 

Zone 3

Heart rate zone 3 is when you’re doing moderate exercising at between 70-80% of your maximum heart rate. This zone is very effective for improving the efficiency of blood circulation in your body’s heart and skeletal muscles. When you’re in this heart rate zone, lactic acid can start to build up in your bloodstream, but this zone will make your moderate efforts easier while it improves your efficiency. Aerobic exercises are examples of zone 3 heart rate zone exercises. 

Zone 4

In heart rate zone 4, you’ll be exercising at 80-90% of your maximum heart rate. This exercise is hard, and you’ll be breathing harder and working more aerobically than the other zones. When you train at this level of intensity, you’ll be improving your speed endurance. Your body gets better at using carbohydrates as a source of energy and your body can withstand higher levels of lactic acid in your blood for longer periods of time. 


Zone 5

In heart rate zone 5, you will be at 90-100% of your maximum heart rate. This is where your heart, blood, and respiratory systems will be working at maximum capacity. This is your absolute maximum level of physical activity, and lactic acid builds up in your blood. After a few minutes of working out at zone 5, you can’t continue at this intensity. If you have just started an exercise plan or haven’t been training very long, you probably won’t be training in this heart rate zone. If you are a professional athlete, you should look into incorporating interval training into your plan to help get you to peak performance. 

How Heart Rates Impact Workouts

Heart rate zones tell you how hard your heart is working as well as which energy source your body is using as fuel- fat or carbohydrates. The higher your heart rate is, the more your body is relying on the glycogen from carbohydrates to fuel it. It’s best for endurance athletes to exercise in zones that rely on fat for fuel, as fat lasts longer as an energy source for longer and more intense workouts. 

While you burn fat at every exercise heart rate zone, it’s important to keep your body’s capabilities in mind. If you are just starting to exercise it’s better to aim for lower-intensity heart rate zones, but as you build your stamina you can push harder to increase your resilience to perform at a higher heart rate zone. Your heart continues to get stronger as you train. Cardiovascular exercise is primarily designed to improve your metabolic and heart health, as it can lower your cholesterol, blood pressure, and blood sugar levels. 

If your goal is to burn fat, building muscle through strength training can really help. More muscle mass boosts your metabolic rate (the number of calories burned while your body is at rest), which helps you burn more calories throughout the day. If you are just starting an exercise program, cardiovascular exercise can help you lose weight in the beginning, but you’ll become aerobically fit at some point. When that happens, you won’t burn as many calories to complete the same amount of exercise, so your weight loss will slow down. 

Heart Rate Zones for Exercise 

If you aren’t sure of what your maximum heart rate is, you can use a calculator to determine it, and then use a calculator to estimate your heart rate zones based on your maximum heart rate. If your goals are to improve your fitness or become a stronger runner, you should vary your workouts as well as the duration of your training sessions. 

When it comes to your heart rate zone, it’s important to pay attention to key differences that are indicated by heart rate zones so that you can maximize your efforts. You shouldn’t get stuck on running the same distance or working out at the exact same intensity every time you exercise. Training in all five heart rate zones is important, and using the heart zone calculator can help you create a routine that will get you in all five zones. There are programs that help people who are wanting to run certain races, like 5k, 10k, half-marathon, or full marathon. 

How to Calculate Your Target Heart Rate Zone

In order to calculate your target heart rate zone, you first have to calculate your maximum heart rate. The easiest way to do this is to subtract your age from 220. 220 is the general guideline for your maximum heart rate, and as you age it’s important to note that your maximum heart rate is going to be lower than the maximum heart rate of someone younger. After you calculate your maximum heart rate, you can multiply that number times the percentage of the heart rate zone you want to be in. For example, a 40-year old has a maximum heart rate of 180 beats per minute. To exercise in zone 2, the heart rate should be 180 times 60-70%. A target heart rate should range from 108 to 126. 

Work Within Your Training Zone

When you’re training for physical fitness, it’s important to not push your body too hard. You should stay within training zones that your body feels comfortable in and allow for plenty of rest time for your body to recover. 

Whether you're just starting out or are a professional athlete, listening to your body is an important part of a workout program. Staying within your training zone is a great way to develop endurance, stamina, and strength. Keeping physically fit can help keep your body and mind working at full capacity as you age, providing both physical and mental benefits. If you haven’t started, don’t wait any longer- start moving your body today!