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The Suprising History of the "HRmax=220-age" Equation

Robert A. Robergs AND Roberto Landwehr

Exercise Physiology Laboratories, The University of New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM

Journal of Exercise Physiology

Volume 5 Number 2 May 2002

**From Abstract**

- equation is often presented in textbooks without explanation or citation to original research
- the formula and related concepts are included in most certification exams within sports medicine, exercise physiology, and fitness
- large error inherent in the estimation of HRmax (Sxy=7-11 b/min)
- formula not developed from original research -- resulted from observation based on data from approximately 11 references consisting of published research or unpublished scientific compilations
- the formula HRmax=220-age has no scientific merit for use in exercise physiology and related fields
- alternate HRmax prediction formula reveals that the majority of age-based univariate prediction equations also have large prediction errors (>10 b/min)
- average decrease in HRmax for women was 12 beats in 21 years and 19 beats in 33

years - average decrease in HRmax for men was 9 beats in 21 years and ~26 in 33 years

**From Conclusion**

- Currently, there is no acceptable method to estimate HRmax.
- If HRmax needs to be estimated, then population specific formulae should be used. However, the most accurate general equation is that of Inbar (17) (Table 3); Rmax=205.8-0.685(age). Nevertheless, the error (Sxy=6.4 b/min) is still unacceptably large.
- Additional research needs to be performed that develops multivariate regression equations that improve the accuracy of HRmax prediction for specific populations, and modes of exercise.
- Textbooks in exercise physiology and exercise prescription should contain content that is more critical of the HRmax=220-age or similar formulae. Authors need to stress the mode-specificity of HRmax, provide alternate, research substantiated formula...Similarly, academic coverage of HRmax needs to explain how this error detracts from using HRmax estimation in many field tests of physical fitness and in exercise prescription.

In other words, DO NOT try to estimate your HRmax using a formula, especially if you are setting training zones based on this number.

James