High School High School Biology and Chemistry

The relationship between exercise heart rate in men versus women

The human heart beats 70 to 85 beats per minute in the average adult. However, depending on the gender, the average varies. The average adult male’s heartbeat is 70 to 72 beats per minute, while the average female rate is between 78 and 82 beats per minute. This is largely due to the size of the heart, which is smaller in women. Because the female heart pumps less blood per beat, it needs to compensate by beating at a faster rate (1).

Believing that gender does not affect heart rates can be detrimental, especially when considering peak exercise heart rates. The simple formula of “220 minus age” was widely used for decades by doctors to calculate the number of heartbeats per minute a person can achieve. However, according to a study conducted by Mayo Clinic, there were significant differences between peak male and female heart rates.

The study revealed that although everybody’s peak rates decline with age, the decline is more gradual in women. As a result, the formula overestimates the peak heart rate younger women can achieve and underestimates the peak heart rate of older women (2).

Women ages 40 through 89 years should expect their maximum heart rate to be 200 minus 67 percent of their age. In men, the formula is 216 minus 93 percent of their age (2). In women under 40, the results are unclear as an insufficient number of tests were conducted on younger women to draw reliable results.

When calculating the previous formula during the 70s, the difference in average body weight, fitness levels, and attitudes towards exercise- particularly towards women- justify the reevaluation of peak heart rates. This study not only utilizes a larger sample size but also is the first to include data from both men and women (2).  


(1) https://www.livestrong.com/article/137631-what-factors-can-influence-heart-rate/

(2) http://www.acc.org/about-acc/press-releases/2014/03/27/12/29/allison-peak-hr-pr

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