Reading a book by Dr Christiaan Barnard on maintaining a healthy heart.

In it he states that to get the maximum results for a healthy heart, any exercise should be between 50 and 75% of your maximum heart rate. Any less is a waste of time, any more can damage the heart. For me (age 45) thats a range of 88-131.

I run for mainly health benefits, not racing, but regularly go over 131. Am i really doing more ham than good.



  • RicFRicF ✭✭✭

    Of course we damage the heart at higher rates. That's why the bloody thing gets stronger. Its called training.

  • I do imagine he is perfectly correct. The longest living people are generally not those who do extreme or high intensity exercise but do a lot of lower intensity stuff. However, going faster and racing makes people feel good and perhaps better to have a shorter, happier life than a long but dull one?

  • is your max only 176.....mine gets that highthan that  even on the bike and not even  racing

  • I only mention it becase its a book i'm reading atm. I think its safe to say that in general its better to do some exercise than none, but 75% is actually quite a low percentage. My last run averaged 145 but hit 160. Thats around 80% MHR, which according to Mr Barnard could be doing harm.

  • E mmyE mmy ✭✭✭
    I've go a heart condition and am monitored by my cardiologist to make sure that my heart isn't under any sort of 'real' stress. They've put me on a treadmill and forced my heart Rate up to 200 beats per minute to see and monitor the effect.

    I was told in no uncertain terms that having a healthy heart and exercising did more benefit than any damage I could do sitting round on my ass doing nothing. If you're concerned about it - see your gp or focus your running based on heart rate. You start off slowly and build it up.
  • Emmy, the choice isnt exercise or doing nothing. Its about how much and how hard to exercise.

    I must admit the book by Dr Barnard is very basic, but he was no doubt an expert in the heart.

  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭

    Dr Barnard died in 2001 so I guess his ideas, while revolutionary in their time, might now be outdated?

  • My point is, and its a valid one, is there a point where running becomes so intense that it does more harm than good.

    Just asking the question.

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭

    I think it is good you are researching it. You should research it until you are happy you have an answer you believe in. Don't be fobbed off by people who don't really know what they are talking about but are happy to distribute their advice freely. This is just the way of the internets as per KK's statement.

    In the mean time you should know that lots of credible people recommend training at 70% max hr or lower as a way to build up endurance (base training). These include HADD, Maffetone and Lydiard. So there is no harm in you doing that while you are researching if that makes you feel better. However, be warned. Trying to keep your HR at 130bpm while running is very hard to do if you are a newbie like me. I tried it 3 days ago and walkers were overtaking me - SO embarassing image Since then I decided to just run slowly rather than focus on the HR. For me that is 12 min/mile.

  • To calculate this correctly: 220 - age = max.

    Min = resting heartrate (probably around 60, unless you are Chris Boardman (at his peak 28 aledgedly.. but I can believe it... ultimate athlete... respect).

    Max - min is your range divide this by 100 to tell you how many beats per 1% over min!  That is the bit that is generally forgotten.  So at 45 your max is 175, your min is 60 (ish) 50% is half way between them 118, and 75% is 146.  Having said that, you should be operating at 80 - 85%, if you wish to improve your fitness.  BUT 90% is heart attack territory, unless you are used to it 2 yrs timew, maybe.

    Having said that i have to cycle for ages to take it through 140 to 150.  When I run I hit 155 before I have left the car park. Cyc ling will burn more calories if you can hit 25 mph. but for mere mortals running works better.

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    What does improve fitness mean?
  • image  Improve, by adaptation,the ability to undertake physical tasks (every day or beyond) without endangering life through unexpected trauma. 

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    Hehe ok my point was just that there are different kinds of performance, adaption and improvement which include endurance, stamina, strength, etc. Not all of these are best served by operating at the heart rate you stated.
  • Hang on, looks like a newbie to me... less than 75% is a waste of time, unless you are seriously obese.  131 is a joke for 45, He should certainly not be backing off at that point.  I have warned him off 90% (162) which I think is sound advice, in the early days. 

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    Ok looking at my own records (I'm a newbie coming from a backdrop of obesity) and I can see you are right image
  • kittenkat wrote (see)

    Gotta love online stuff.

    Basically, I don't think anyone can answer this effectively without knowing your weight, exercise history, current fitness etc... And probably a few more things.

    But I'm sure they'll try image

    Does she mean me?

    Still, one does have to challenge ones self.  Even marathon training includes a weekly dose of speedwork. image

  • KhanivoreKhanivore ✭✭✭
    No I don't think kk meant anyone specific. Personally I plan to focus on building up my weekly mileage and I will only add speed work etc when I am happy with my volume of training.
  • Using the accepted method of working out HR zones, it is 144. Thats max hr-resting (49)x .75 plus resting. Still quite low.

    However, since i started running about 10 mnths ago, in general i have slowed down, especially since i got a HR  monitor. I'm sure my first 6 months were all at 95%, ....madness.......



  • King K wrote (see)

    To calculate this correctly: 220 - age = max.

    220 - age is NOT an accurate measurement of max heart rate.

  • Also-ranAlso-ran ✭✭✭


    runs-with-dogs wrote (see)
    King K wrote (see)

    To calculate this correctly: 220 - age = max.

    220 - age is NOT an accurate measurement of max heart rate.

    Absolutely. If you are going to train by heart rate zone, then doing a maximal heart rate test would be advisable. Mine was very close to this formula. It was 2 beats higher, but could just have easily been +/- 10 beats out.

  • Sure. The original question was "can going over a certain HR cause more damage than good".

    I also read, on here, a cardiologist say that virtually nothing can damage the heart on a fairly fit and healthy person.

  • MuttleyMuttley ✭✭✭

    If you read that article closer, it talks about ultra endurance athletes. That means people doing these OTT 20-times Ironman-type things, or professional athletes training twice a day for 20 miles a session. There has been talk on this forum of anecdotal evidence of heart enlargement in such folk.

    Alternatively, we see reports of people dropping dead in marathons and half marathons but it almost almost transpires afterwards that they had a previously undiagnosed heart issue.

    Ordinary folk who go out for a run five days a week for up to an hour plus one longer run should not worry. We have defence mechanisms to stop us from overdoing it - we get tired and out of breath long long before we do ourselves real damage.

    Disclaimer: I am not a cardiologist, just a bloke who's happy to dispense his opinion on t'internet image

  • When I did a maximum HR test about 3 years ago the result was 199 - I was 42 then. On the basic formula it woud have been 178. That makes a huge difference to training zones!

  • King K wrote (see)

    To calculate this correctly: 220 - age = max.

    Probably the most dangerous and misleading piece of mis-information that can be reproduced in a discussion about heart ratesimage

    See Also Ran and Runs with Dogs comments above.

    You also need to know what is your accurate resting heart rate (RHR) in order to be able to calculate one's HR range. Even a modestly well trained endurance athlete could expect to see a figure in the low 50's and even 45-50 bpm would not be uncommon

  • PhilPubPhilPub ✭✭✭
    King K wrote (see)

    Hang on, looks like a newbie to me...

    The fact that there are a lot of newbies who use the site for advice is a pretty good reason for NOT trotting out the old myths about HR formulae such as 220 minus age.  My recorded max HR of 202 in a race a few weeks ago makes me at least 22 years younger than it says on my birth certificate.  And guess what - I didn't have a heart attack!  image

    I've read about the very extreme examples of ultra-endurance type athletes who may have complications with enlarged hearts and all the rest of it.  There may be some truth in that, I dunno.  It's also fair to say that the average individual should be doing most of their exercise/training at a comfortable level of intensity, but as far as I know there is no generally accepted concensus regarding advice to completely avoid letting your heart rate get into whatever % of max (especially when most of us clearly don't know what this is anyway.)

    I tend to go along with Noakes' Central Governor System theory, not something which I fully understand, but which in simple terms seems to suggest that the body has built-in defence mechanisms to make sure nothing is being stressed beyond its means. In other words, before the heart says, "Woah, that's a bit too much", the brain says "Sod this, that's my limit."

  • Muttley, yes, one first view its quite misleading. Typical Daily Mail.

    (on the issue of MHR and resting, i found mine the proper way, not through a formula, so can we drop this subject of how to work it out, and concentrate on if there is such a thing as an unsafe level to train at)

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