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Part Four: Crunching the Numbers: The Nes et al. MHR Formula for Accurate Heart Rate Estimation

Updated: Mar 2, 2023


The maximum heart rate (MHR) has been a topic of interest in exercise physiology for many years. In the early days, it was believed that the MHR was determined solely by genetics, and there was no way to change it. However, with advancements in research, it has been discovered that the MHR can be influenced by various factors such as age, fitness level, and gender. One of the most popular formulas for estimating the MHR is the Nes et al. max heart rate formula. This post will provide an overview of the formula, its history, implementation, best practices, advantages, drawbacks, and conclusions.


History


The Nes et al. max heart rate formula was developed in 2013 by a team of researchers from Norway led by Dr. Bjarne Nes. The team conducted a study involving 332 healthy adults (178 men and 154 women) aged between 20 and 90 years. The study aimed to develop a more accurate formula for estimating the MHR than the commonly used formula of 220 - age. The Nes et al. max heart rate formula was developed based on the results of the study.


Implementation


The Nes et al. max heart rate formula is relatively simple to use. It involves multiplying the age of the individual by 0.64 for men and 0.67 for women and subtracting the result from 211 for men and 210 for women. The formula is as follows:


MHR = 211 - (0.64 x age) for men

MHR = 210 - (0.67 x age) for women


For example, the estimated MHR for a 30-year-old man would be 189 beats per minute (bpm) [(211 - (0.64 x 30) = 189)].


Best Practices


The Nes et al. max heart rate formula is a reliable and accurate tool for estimating an individual's MHR. However, there are certain best practices that should be followed when using the formula:

  1. Use the formula as a guide: The formula provides an estimate of an individual's MHR. It is important to note that the actual MHR may vary from the estimated value.

  2. Consider individual factors: While the formula is based on age and gender, other factors such as fitness level, medical history, and medications can also influence an individual's MHR. It is important to take these factors into account when using the formula.

  3. Use in combination with other measures: The MHR is just one measure of an individual's cardiovascular fitness. It should be used in combination with other measures such as resting heart rate, blood pressure, and exercise capacity to get a comprehensive picture of an individual's cardiovascular health.


Advantages


One of the main advantages of the Nes et al. max heart rate formula is its accuracy. The formula was developed based on a large sample size and has been validated in other studies. It provides a more accurate estimate of an individual's MHR than the commonly used formula of 220 - age. Another advantage of the formula is its simplicity. It is easy to use and can be used by healthcare professionals, trainers, and individuals to estimate an individual's MHR.


Drawbacks


One of the main drawbacks of the Nes et al. max heart rate formula is its limited applicability. The formula was developed based on a sample of healthy adults and may not be applicable to individuals with underlying medical conditions or those who are taking medications that affect heart rate. Additionally, the formula is based solely on age and gender and does not take into account other factors that can influence an individual's MHR, such as fitness level and genetics.


Conclusion:

In conclusion, the Nes et al. max heart rate formula is a valuable tool for estimating an individual's MHR. It provides a more accurate estimate than the commonly used formula of 220 - age and is easy to use. However, it should be used as a guide and in combination with other measures to get a comprehensive picture of an individual's cardiovascular health. Additionally, it may not be applicable to individuals with underlying medical conditions or those taking medications that affect heart rate.


Thanks for reading.


References:

  1. Nes BM, Janszky I, Wisløff U, Støylen A, Karlsen T. Age-predicted maximal heart rate in healthy subjects: The HUNT Fitness Study. Scand J Med Sci Sports. 2013;23(6):697-704. doi: 10.1111/j.1600-0838.2012.01445.x

  2. Tanaka, H., Monahan, K. D., & Seals, D. R. (2001). Age-predicted maximal heart rate revisited. Journal of the American College of Cardiology, 37(1), 153-156. doi: 10.1016/S0735-1097(00)01054-8

  3. American Heart Association. Target Heart Rates. (2021). Retrieved from https://www.heart.org/en/healthy-living/fitness/fitness-basics/target-heart-rates.

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