Ask the Personal Trainer: Can I Exceed My Target Heart Rate?

Is it dangerous to go over your maximum heart rate?

Q: Is it dangerous for me to go over my maximum heart rate (85%)? I wear a heart rate monitor, and I notice that my heart rate sometimes goes over 85% when I am finishing leg weight training or taking a spinning class.

A: First, let's back up a bit. To determine your target heart rate, subtract your age from 220. That's your maximum heart rate per minute. Once you know that, follow these tips:

• As a general guide, if you are new to exercise, you should be working at 50-65% of your maximum heart rate. As you progress to an intermediate level, bump it up to 60-75%, then to 70-85% at the highest fitness levels.

• If you have vascular disease and are on prescribed medications that lower your heart rate, the above percentages will not apply and you should consult your physician for guidance.

• It is possible to exceed the upper limit of your zone without any ill effects, as long as you do not have coronary artery disease or are at risk for a heart attack. What it may do, though, is leave you with a musculoskeletal injury.

• Exercising above 85% of your target heart rate could bring you sore joints and muscles. It puts you at risk for overtraining, which may discourage you from exercising, which is altogether unproductive. I recommend sticking within your target heart rate zone.

In this Q&A series, William Sukala, MS, CSCS, answers questions about fitness and exercise. Read more articles from our personal trainer.

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