The basis

Determine the
maximum heart rate

Determination using a formula

As the maximum heart rate is not only dependent on gender and age, but on many individual factors, the MHR formula cannot, of course, determine your individual MHR exactly. The calculated value should therefore only be seen as a guide value.

In practice, there are different approaches to the calculation. I would like to introduce the three most well-known ones to you here:

The simple rule of thumb:

This formula is very common and quite simple and says:

MHR = 220 – Age

It is hardly surprising that the result is very imprecise. Nevertheless, even your family doctor usually calculates your maximum heart rate according to this formula. 

The calculation according to Sally Edwards:

Sally Edwards supported and qualified for the first women’s Olympic marathons in 1983. She is one of the original founders of the National Triathlon Federation of the USA. As a former athlete, she has completed more than 150 Danskin triathlons and 16 Ironman triathlons, among others. She is also a former world record holder in Ironman. Today she is a sought-after author and founder of Heart Zones Inc.

In her formula she includes the variables gender, age and body weight in in the calculation.

MHR = 214 – (0.5 × age) – (0.11 × body weight in kg)

MHR = 210 – (0.5 × age) – (0.11 × body weight in kg)

The calculation according to Dr. Winfried Spanaus:

Dr. phil. Winfried Spanaus studied sports, Latin, English and intercultural German studies. He received his doctorate at the University of Düsseldorf (Germany) on the subject of training control in endurance sports. Since 2000 he has been Head of Department Sport at the German School in Johannesburg (SA). In his active sports career, he mastered the Ironman Hawaii, became Vice World Champion in duathlon and has a marathon best time of 2:20.

His formula was developed in a test with 500 test persons.

MHR = 223 – (0.9 × age in years)

MHR = 226 – (0.9 × age in years)

In the PULSALARM App your MHR is calculated according to the formula of Dr. Spanaus. I decided to use it because it gave me the most accurate result, as determined in my sport-medical performance diagnosis. 

But with you this does not have to be the case, so you should either have the result confirmed in a self-test or in a professional performance diagnosis.

Determination in self-test

If you want to determine your maximum heart rate in a self-test, you should be aware that you are deliberately going to the limit of your capacity.

This also means that you have to be really healthy, have not had cardiovascular problems before, are not injured and you have a basic fitness level, i.e. have been in training for a longer period of time. 

If you are not sure about this, you should either use the heart rate monitor or take a performance test under supervision. Please do not put your health at risk.

First of all warm up before you start the actual test. Ready? Then start running and increase your running speed about every 60 seconds. After 7 to 10 increases you should reach your performance limit. Give it all you’ve got until you’ve really tickled your last power and you can’t maintain your speed anymore. Now it’s time to check your heart rate on your Apple Watch or a heart rate monitor. This value should correspond to your maximum heart rate.

After that, you will slowly run out for 10 minutes without exertion. You have done it and can now determine your individual training zones or have them displayed in the PULSALARM app on the iPhone.

Sports medical performance diagnosis

A sports medical performance diagnosis is not the same as an exercise ECG at the family doctor’s. The evaluation provides you with much more information for an effective training program.

In the case of an exercise ECG, which is carried out in most GP’s surgeries on a bicycle (ergometer), a functional examination of the cardiovascular system is carried out. Here the patient is usually subjected to a defined load according to a WHO scheme. During and after the exercise, a continuous ECG recording and a blood pressure measurement are carried out to determine the maximum exercise level as well as blood pressure and pulse behaviour under exercise.

To put it simply: While the exercise ECG tells you whether you are allowed to do sports and training without any restrictions, a performance diagnostic gives you additional information on how you should effectively and purposefully do sports and training in order to improve your performance.

Thanks to additional respiratory gas analysis and lactate value measurement, a performance diagnosis can determine your individual aerobic and anaerobic threshold very precisely in addition to your maximum heart rate. This gives you an enormous training advantage: at every performance level – from recreational athletes to amateurs and professionals – the data obtained is the basis for effective training control. Every training unit becomes more valuable. Over- and underchallenges are a thing of the past if you train in the right pulse range.

The sports medical performance diagnosis and the associated consultation opened my eyes and was also the birth of the idea for the PULSALARM App.