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Old 09-19-06, 05:00 PM   #1
Raketmensch
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Maximum heart rate vs. age... the results

Hi all: Okay, as promised, here's a summary of the results of my little non-scientific study of maximum heart rate vs. age for BF50+ers. The plot shows all the reported values that appeared to be valid. I left out one individual who said he was on beta blockers, which reduce max HR, and one who suspected a glitch in his data. For some who responded with Max HR but not age I grabbed the age value from the rogues gallery! Also shown on the plot is the oft-cited 220-age line. A few things pop out:

1) As several have noted, 220-age is not a particularly good predictor.

2) Interestingly, essentially all of the reported values are at or above the 220-age line. Even though 220-age is a poor predictor overall, this could perhaps be an indication that the population here has a somewhat higher max HR on average than the general population does in our age group.

3) There's quite a bit of scatter in the data. This surely reflects a combination of factors, including both real variations from individual to individual and variations in the way the measurement was made.

4) There appears to be a weakly-expressed trend of decreasing max HR with increasing age, but it is small in these data compared to the scatter.

Overall interesting stuff, and I thank you for indulging my curiosity. Keep 'em beating!
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Old 09-19-06, 05:29 PM   #2
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At about 160bpm and age 56, I rank near the bottom of the chart. Should my resting pulse of 43bpm also be factored in? Should I be concerned?
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Old 09-19-06, 05:36 PM   #3
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That flyer up there on the right is interesting--the oldest guy on the plot has the third- or fourth-highest max HR. Now you have to figure out if the exercise has kept him healthy, or if he's a mutant able to work hard into his 70s.
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Old 09-19-06, 06:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John E
At about 160bpm and age 56, I rank near the bottom of the chart. Should my resting pulse of 43bpm also be factored in? Should I be concerned?
In a word, I don't think so. (Okay four words.)

First thing, an internet discussion forum of non-physicians is probably not an ideal place to go for medical advice. Second thing, I think it's quite possible that a low resting pulse should indeed be factored in... some posters have already made this point. Certainly a resting pulse of 43 has to be considered pretty healthy! (Mine is about 60.) Third thing, the canonical simple-minded 220-minus-your-age formula, flawed as it is, gives 164 for an age of 56, which to the kind of accuracy we're talking about here is right on your value. So, from the sound of things, you've got a roughly normal max HR for your age, and a very low and healthy-sounding resting HR. Sounds pretty good to me!
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Old 09-19-06, 06:42 PM   #5
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JohnE, I don't think you need be concerned, after all you aren't the lowest.
You are ahead of me at 159 bpm & 58 yr. Like you my resting pulse is fairly low,
ranging from 37 to 41 bpm.
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Old 09-19-06, 06:48 PM   #6
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Normal Variances in Maximum Heart Rate are NOT a health issue. Repeat!

What is a health issue is heart recovery rate.

The only purpose or reason I know of to determine MHR is to assist in training around the issue of lactate threshold.
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Old 09-19-06, 08:34 PM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by DnvrFox
The only purpose or reason I know of to determine MHR is to assist in training around the issue of lactate threshold.
Yep... exactly what he said.

I just got a HRM, and I'm just beginning training with heart rate... so I just did a max heart rate test on myself, precisely for the reason Denver cited above. I was just curious what sorts of numbers other cyclists in my age group have found. There is plenty of evidence to indicate that MHR is not a useful indicator of how fit you are, how good looking you are, or much of anything else.
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Old 09-19-06, 10:55 PM   #8
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Sorry, I don't believe that many old timers actually tested their max heart rate properly. To do so is painful and most people over 50 have a very hard time pressing themselves that hard.

Moreover, as I stated before, unless you've been a long term athlete you're unlikely to fit the curve. Old smokers with emphasema have very high heart rates as well since their hearts have to work hard to scavenge oxygen from their failing lungs. That ain't a sign of health.

That is an interesting graph but what it tells me is that you have a lot of guys who are putting in 20 mile rides and 1500 mile or less years. I ain't knocking it mind you, just saying that I recognize that your statement saying "non-scientific" is indeed more accurate than the rest of it.
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Old 09-20-06, 10:23 AM   #9
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Tom,

I have read repeatedly in articles by trainers and Md's that HRmax is not particularly influenced by overall fitness. Resting HR and HR recovery are. Old smokers having high HRs are resting HRs, their maximums are predominantly genetically determined. Of interest, Arnie Baker, MD reports in "Smart Cycling" that HR max measurements differ dependant upon the stress used to determine max HR. Also, in order to truly test your HRmax, you need to be in good enough physical condition to allow your system to push hard enough to achieve the true max. Your are indeed correct that its "nonscientific", and that its painful to determine HRmax. Mine was determined on a very long steep hill after warming up for about 20 miles of gentle riding. The yearly riding milage and ride lengths really have nothing to do with the HRmax, as the max is the physiologically highest HR that your heart can achieve. And Denver is also correct, the there is some evidense that HRmax falls less over the years for people who maintain a high level of fitness.

All in all, though, I still believe that the 220-age formula is flawed. It still seems that
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Old 09-20-06, 02:03 PM   #10
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Hi, I just joined. If you'd like one more data point, age 58, MHR observed 177. Fits in the cluster pretty well. FWIW, smoker ages 13 - 53.

Ken
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Old 09-20-06, 04:56 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclintom
Sorry, I don't believe that many old timers actually tested their max heart rate properly. To do so is painful and most people over 50 have a very hard time pressing themselves that hard.

Moreover, as I stated before, unless you've been a long term athlete you're unlikely to fit the curve. Old smokers with emphasema have very high heart rates as well since their hearts have to work hard to scavenge oxygen from their failing lungs. That ain't a sign of health.

That is an interesting graph but what it tells me is that you have a lot of guys who are putting in 20 mile rides and 1500 mile or less years. I ain't knocking it mind you, just saying that I recognize that your statement saying "non-scientific" is indeed more accurate than the rest of it.
So this would indicate that the real MHR is higher since I would hope that everyone who gave a MHR actually hit it on occasion? I know I have and it is painful. Also based on my stress test I now believe that MHR is also sport dependent. On the treadmill I was completely max'ed out at 187, there was no way I was going to hit 195. On the bike I have hit 195 on 2-3 occasions. Now it is possible my HRM is not as accurate as the EKG but I would be disapointed if it was off by 10bpm. In the end as Dnvr says this is just a nice exercise that has very little to do with your training. Figure out your HR zones based on fatigue which is driven by Lactate Threshold and train that way or blow all of this HR stuff off and go have fun riding.
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Old 09-20-06, 09:19 PM   #12
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Originally Posted by stonecrd
So this would indicate that the real MHR is higher since I would hope that everyone who gave a MHR actually hit it on occasion? I know I have and it is painful.
Yeah, what I THINK is that it is unlikely that many people have pushed themselves to the point where they could THEN read their max heart rates. So, yes, that would indicate that THEIR max rates are a bit higher. Perhaps a beat or two - that doesn't sound like much but is.

Quote:
Originally Posted by stonecrd
Also based on my stress test I now believe that MHR is also sport dependent. On the treadmill I was completely max'ed out at 187, there was no way I was going to hit 195. On the bike I have hit 195 on 2-3 occasions. Now it is possible my HRM is not as accurate as the EKG but I would be disapointed if it was off by 10bpm. In the end as Dnvr says this is just a nice exercise that has very little to do with your training. Figure out your HR zones based on fatigue which is driven by Lactate Threshold and train that way or blow all of this HR stuff off and go have fun riding.
The problem is that science ain't all that exact unfortunately. At least human science. Describing heart rate as "genetically determined" is missing the point. Because EVERYONE has almost the same limits. That's why some scientists have been moved to suggest that the heart is designed to have a certain number of beats until it fails. If you train up and have a naturally low resting heart rate and a naturally low rate under NORMAL WORK LOAD, (and barring other complications) you're likely to live longer than someone sedentary with a high resting heart rate and a high heart rate under normal work loads.

While trained athletes naturally produce more power with higher heart rates that is a byproduct of the training and not because of it. The idea is to move the maximum amount of oxygen to the muscles, get it across the cell barriers and to then remove the maximum amount of CO2. The max heart rate is only one part of that complicated mechanism. You CAN grow entirely new artery capacity as well as capillary system and venous capacity with training that makes a far larger contribution to most people's power output over time.

The lung EFFICIENCY is probably improved with training. Heavy breathing strengthens the diaphram and chest muscles which pull in air faster and more effectively.

There is even discussion now that heavy training CAN increase cellular mitochodria.

I get sort of a funny feeling when I see people actually bragging about their heart rates being above the norm.
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Old 09-20-06, 10:24 PM   #13
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Originally Posted by byte_speed
JohnE, I don't think you need be concerned, ...
I was trying to make a [very] little joke. I enjoy excellent cardiovascular health, and have my lifestyle, including cycling, jogging, and diet, to thank. I am getting the last laugh on some of the jocks and natural athletes from my hgh school days, when I was an overweight, extremely awkward nerd.
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Old 09-21-06, 07:01 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by cyclintom
Yeah, what I THINK is that it is unlikely that many people have pushed themselves to the point where they could THEN read their max heart rates. So, yes, that would indicate that THEIR max rates are a bit higher. Perhaps a beat or two - that doesn't sound like much but is.



The problem is that science ain't all that exact unfortunately. At least human science. Describing heart rate as "genetically determined" is missing the point. Because EVERYONE has almost the same limits. That's why some scientists have been moved to suggest that the heart is designed to have a certain number of beats until it fails. If you train up and have a naturally low resting heart rate and a naturally low rate under NORMAL WORK LOAD, (and barring other complications) you're likely to live longer than someone sedentary with a high resting heart rate and a high heart rate under normal work loads.

While trained athletes naturally produce more power with higher heart rates that is a byproduct of the training and not because of it. The idea is to move the maximum amount of oxygen to the muscles, get it across the cell barriers and to then remove the maximum amount of CO2. The max heart rate is only one part of that complicated mechanism. You CAN grow entirely new artery capacity as well as capillary system and venous capacity with training that makes a far larger contribution to most people's power output over time.

The lung EFFICIENCY is probably improved with training. Heavy breathing strengthens the diaphram and chest muscles which pull in air faster and more effectively.

There is even discussion now that heavy training CAN increase cellular mitochodria.

I get sort of a funny feeling when I see people actually bragging about their heart rates being above the norm.
Not sure what your point is but that seems like a weird way of looking at the subject, you are born with the MHR you are born with-no biggie one way or the other. For the most part the posters in this thread understand it has nothing to do with fitness.
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