What Should My Average Heart Rate Be While Running?
Sport & Activity
Many factors affect your heart rate while running, including age, exercise intensity and fitness level. Here's how to see if yours is normal.
You may not notice your heart beat until it feels like it's pounding through your chest. But tapping into your average heart rate while running can clue you into just how intense you need to make your workouts—whether you're trying to break a sweat or recover from a hard workout.
Get started with this handy guide to figuring out your normal heart rate when running.
Factors That Impact Heart Rate When Running
In general, there are a few things that will establish what a "normal heart rate" looks like for you, including:
- Aerobic capacity/fitness level
- Family history
During exercise, running quickly and covering hilly routes will automatically boost your heart rate. But many other things can increase your heart rate when running, including:
- Routine stress and anxiety
- Other medical conditions
- Certain medications
- Higher ambient temperature and humidity
- Caffeine, alcohol or nicotine
Your Maximum Heart Rate
If you want to use your heart rate to keep tabs of your intensity while running, you need to figure out your maximum heart rate.
The easiest way to calculate your max heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. That means, if you're 40 years old, your predicted maximum heart rate is 220 − 40, or 180, beats per minute (bpm).
"However, this should be used with caution, because heart rate can vary widely between individuals", says Todd Buckingham, PhD, lead exercise physiologist at Mary Free Bed Sports Rehabilitation Performance Lab. "This might be what an 'average' 40-year-old maximum heart rate is, but there are also outliers on both sides that balance that out".
Normal Heart Rate for Running
It's tough to pinpoint a normal heart rate when running, since heart rate varies from one runner to the next.
"What's 'normal' for one runner may be very high or very low for another", says Buckingham. Instead, it may be more helpful to think about your target heart rate during running. This is a range based on a percentage of your max heart rate.
For a moderate-intensity run, the American Heart Association (AHA) recommends staying within 50–70 percent of your maximum heart rate. So again, if you're 40, aim to keep your heart rate between 90 and 126 bpm during a moderate-intensity run.
For speed work (like a tempo run), you can go up to 85 percent of your max heart rate, provided you don't have any pre-existing cardiovascular conditions, says Marnie Kunz, a certified running coach through USA Track & Field and Road Runners Club of America, and founder of Runstreet.com.
And generally, you don't want to exercise between 90 and 100 percent of your max heart rate for very long, so stick to short bursts, Kunz says.
What Happens if Your Heart Rate Is Too Low or Too High
There are downsides to having your heart rate fall outside your target range during a run.
For starters, the improvements you're after won't happen as quickly as they might if you had trained in the correct heart-rate zone, Buckingham explains. Going hard on easy runs can hinder your recovery, whereas running at a too-low intensity won't force your body to adapt.
But there are more severe consequences to letting your heart rate get too high while running. The closer you get to your max heart rate, the harder your heart (and the rest of your body) has to work to keep up with the demands of your workout. If you don't dial back the intensity, you may develop heart palpitations, an irregular heart rate, shortness of breath or chest pain.
Anyone can experience issues if their heart rate gets too high when running, but runners with heart conditions face the greatest risk. So if you have heart disease or any other cardiovascular issues, it's essential to check with your doctor to make sure you're cleared for running.
And stop running and get medical help if you notice any of the following symptoms:
- Fluttering heartbeat
- Chest tightness or pain
How to Track Your Heart Rate
To measure your heart rate before, during or after a run, you can easily check your pulse at any of the following spots on your body:
- The inside of your wrist
- The inside of your elbow
- The side of your neck
- The top of your foot
Press the tips of your index and middle fingers lightly to your skin until you feel your pulse. Then, count the number of beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four. That's your heart rate. You can do this whenever you need a quick heart-rate check.
You can also use a heart-rate monitor during your workouts or a smartwatch that tracks your heart rate 24/7. This lets you check your heart rate with a quick glance at your wrist while you run. A smartwatch will also store your heart-rate data so you can see trends over time. The more data you have, the better you'll be able to gauge what your "normal" heart rate while running should be.
For more expert-backed tips, make sure you download the Nike Run Club App!