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Aerobics/Rationale Behind Karvonen Method


Hi Brandon,
I was wondering why the Karvonen formula for calculating target heart rates takes into account the resting heart rate.  If I have a higher resting heart rate, the formula gives a higher THR to exercise at.  Yet, I was thinking, if you have a higher RHR, then you're probably out of shape and should exercise at a lower THR.  So the Karvonen formula does the opposite of what makes sense.

Any insights into this odd situation?

Many thanks,


Research has shown that the Karvonen Method or HRR is more accurate than using age predicted maxHR since it does take resting HR into account. Resting HR's are used to determine a closer representation of what VO2R is and allows for more accurate THR. The correct way to prescribe exercise to someone with an higher resting HR that could be the result of a poor or low fitness level would be to reduce the percentage at which they exercise for example someone with a higher fitness capacity could exercise at 60-85% HRR.

Also keep in mind that the HRR/Karvonen method should be used in relation with a maximal stress test and true Max HR has been achieved. I hope this answers your question.



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Brandon Briggs, MS


I can answer questions about cardiovascular fitness, pulmonary & cardiac rehab, weight training, and corrective exercise.


I have a Master's in Exercise Science and I am a certified Exercise Specialist. I have been working in Cardiac Rehab for 3 yrs and also doing personal training for 3.

NASM Corrective Exercise Specialist, ACSM Certified Exercise Specialist

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Graduated from CalU with a MS in Exercise Science and Health Promotion with 4.0

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