Your heart rate, or pulse, is measured in beats per minute (bpm). During cardio exercise such as running, your heart rate increases. Your heart rate while running can be a good measurement of how hard you’re working.

As your pace and work rate increase, so does your heart rate. Blood circulates to your muscles so they can get the oxygen and nutrients they need to keep going.

You can determine your target heart rate for running using a formula based on your age and maximum heart rate. When running, you should train at 50 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate. To calculate the maximum rate, subtract your age from 220.

If your heart rate dips below this, you might want to pick up the pace to get better results from your workout. If your heart rate reaches its maximum, you might want to back off to be able to finish your run. A heart rate monitor can help you keep track.

Average heart rate while running is different for each person. That’s because it may be influenced by:

  • age
  • fitness level: runners tend to have a lower resting heart rate than nonathletic people
  • air temperature: heat and humidity may raise heart rate
  • medication use: medications like beta blockers may slow your rate and high dosages of thyroid medication may raise it
  • stress: emotions brought on from stress may slow or quicken your rate

Most runners ages 20 to 45 will want to train between 100 and 160 bpm, on average. But that average depends on a number of factors, including your maximum heart rate and current fitness level. You can use the formula and chart below to determine your target heart rate range.

To determine your ideal running heart rate, you’ll first need to calculate your maximum heart rate.

To calculate your maximum heart rate, subtract your age from 220.

For example, if you’re 30 years old, your maximum heart rate would be 190.

Keep in mind, this is just a guide. Your maximum heart rate may vary 15 to 20 bpm in either direction.

The American Heart Association recommends exercising with a target heart rate of 50 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate for beginners, and for moderately intense exercise.

You can work at 70 to 85 percent of your maximum heart rate during vigorous activity. Follow the table below as a general guide. Your heart rate may be 15 to 20 bpm higher or lower. Use a monitor to keep track.

Age in yearsTarget heart rate (bpm)Maximum heart rate (bpm)
20100–170200
3095–162190
3593–157185
4090–153180
4588–149175
5085–145170
6080–136160

Going higher than your maximum heart rate for long periods of time could be dangerous for your health. That’s especially true if you’re new to exercise.

One study of recreational hockey players found that those who continuously exceeded their target and maximum heart rates while playing had poor rates of recovery after exercise. They also increased their risk for cardiac events such as:

You might want to back off to a more comfortable pace if you’re consistently reaching your maximum heart rate while running. Stop exercising if you feel lightheaded, dizzy, or ill.

Instead of pace per mile, heart rate training relies on bpm as a guide for how fast you should run. Heart rate training uses zones based on your maximum heart rate.

The following are the five different zones based on your maximum heart rate:

  • Zone 1: 50 to 60 percent of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 2: 60 to 70 percent of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 3: 70 to 80 percent of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 4: 80 to 90 percent of maximum heart rate
  • Zone 5: 90 to 100 percent of maximum heart rate

Depending on your goals, you may spend time training in different zones.

Marathon runners, for example, focus on keeping a steady pace for many miles. They may want to spend half their training in zones 1 and 2. They can do some speed or interval training in zones 3 and 4, though.

If you’re training for a 5K, you might want to spend more time training in zones 3 to 4. Elite athletes and sprinters may focus more of their training in zones 4 and 5.

Use a heart rate monitor to keep track of your training. If you find yourself continuously working in zone 4 or higher, you might want to slow down. You can work with a professional trainer or running coach to help you determine a workout schedule based on your goals.

Heart rate training can be an effective way to measure how hard your body is working while running. Remember not to push yourself to the point of complete exhaustion when training.

Trying to keep your heart rate up in a comfortable zone can be challenging. Work with a running coach or fitness professional to design workouts at an appropriate level for you. Always see your doctor before starting a new running or fitness routine.