Older runners must work harder

By Fred Deckert


Thanks go to my friend Jere Moore, who sent me this data from the Researchers at the University of Colorado at Boulder. Now there is a new formula for healthy runners to estimate their maximum heart rate. The good news is that under the new formula, runners over 40 years old will get to work harder to reach their target level of effort.

As most runners like Jere, who use heart monitors know, the old formula for figuring your maximum heart rate was to subtract your age from 220. Under the new formula for healthy runners reported in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, subtract .7 times your age from 208. In other words, for a 60-year-old, his or her estimated maximum under the old formula is 160, under the new it is 208 – (60x.7) = 166.

For the 60-year-old with a resting heart rate of 60 in order to do an easy run at 70 percent of max, he or she has to run at 130 under the old formula and 134 under the new. Not much difference but enough. For those new to heart monitor running: To find the heart rate for 70 percent effort, multiply the difference between the resting and the maximum rates by 70 percent and add the result back to the resting rate.) In the example it’s (166 – 60) x .7 + 60 = 134.2.

Why the change the formula? The study leader, Hirofumi Tanaka, exercise kinesiologist at the University of Colorado said the old formula was based on studies that included smokers and people with heart disease and did not account for such factors as obesity. The new formula is for healthy runners, and you should check with your doctor before using it. Both formulas are just estimates and averages. The best way to get your maximum heart rate is on a treadmill under qualified supervision.

Heart monitors can be a good way for you to formalize your effort level. Most runners tend to run too hard on their easy days, which may lead to more injury and exhaustion than necessary. The old bromide is true, stress plus rest equals progress, stress plus more stress equals breakdown. The body actually repairs tissue during the easy days, which will in the long run gain more in conditioning and in satisfaction with your running.