Want to really make a difference in your health and fitness? Don’t just move – exercise hard enough to raise your heart rate. Even when the gym is closed (or seems undesirable), it's a goal for your home workout, too.

Aerobic exercise can help lower blood pressure and cholesterol levels and cut your risk for heart disease and stroke, two of the nation’s leading causes of death.

The American Heart Association recommendations that adults:

  • Get at least 150 minutes per week of moderate-intensity aerobic activity or 75 minutes per week of vigorous aerobic activity, or a combination of both..
  • Add moderate- to high-intensity muscle-strengthening activity (such as resistance or weights) at least 2 days per week.
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AMA guidelines are based on scientific evidence supporting the connections between physical activity, overall health and well-being, disease prevention and quality of life.

The difference between "moderate" and "vigorous" exercises

So, how do you define “moderate” and “vigorous” when considering your heart rate?

  • Start with 220, subtract your age and that number is your maximum heart rate.
  • For moderate exercise, try to reach 50% to 70% of your maximum heart rate. That’s your target heart rate.
  • For vigorous exercise, aim for 70% to 85% of your maximum heart rate.

If, for instance, you’re exercising and you can have a conversation during the activity, that’s moderate level. Alternatively, if you have to stop momentarily to catch your breath to speak, that’s considered vigorous exercise.

  • Example: You’re a 40-year-old. 220 minus 40 = 180 (your maximum heart rate). For moderate activity, you want your heart rate to be between 90 and 126 (that’s 50% to 70%) the entire 150 minutes you’re exercising. For vigorous, aim for a heart rate between 126 and 153 (that’s 70% to 85%) when you’re exercising.

It's suggested that adults mix up their aerobic activity. Perhaps one week you’ll do more moderate exercise; other weeks might be vigorous. A combination of both is beneficial, too.

Measuring your heart rate is a good place to start

When you’re exercising, you can measure your heart rate manually or electronically.


  • Take your pulse on the inside of your wrist, on the thumb side.
  • Use the tips of your first two fingers (not your thumb) to press lightly over the blood vessels on your wrist.
  • Count your pulse for 15 seconds and multiply by 4 to find your beats per minute.


Heart rate monitors use sensors located on a chest strap or on your wrist. Chest straps give more accurate readings. Wrist monitors are more convenient. Some of the most popular wrist monitors (also known as trackers) are the Apple Watch and Fitbit.

For some people, exercising is a lifestyle change after years of not doing it. Lifestyle changes are hard. But you will benefit. Just get out there.