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Notation:

T = Target heart rate
M = Maximum heart rate
R = Resting heart rate
I = Intensity (a number between 0 and 1)

Karvonen's formula:

T = (M – R) × I + R 

which is equivalent to

T = M × I + R × (1 – I)

Because I is between 0 and 1, (1 – I) is positive. Therefore, a higher R implies a higher T. This means that a deconditioned individual with a high R would be prescribed a higher T than a runner with a low R. What is the rationale from a health perspective? Should Zone 2 training range be higher in the unconditioned individual if the goal is to increase the density of mitochondria or heart health?

1 Answer 1

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It's all made up and arbitrary.

Karvonen's heart rate zones are just five evenly distributed ranges from one's minimum to maximum heart rate. So Zone 1 is 0-20% of the way from minimum HR to maximum, Zone 2 is 20-40% of the way from minimum HR to maximum, etc. They don't really have any special meaning beyond that, and attempts to label them ("recovery", "aerobic", "anaerobic", etc) are unlikely to be accurate.

What is the rationale from a health perspective?

There is none. Predicted or prescribed heart rates from such models should be taken, at best, as a very rough guide.

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