What’s A Typical Average Heart Rate While Running?

Unpacking the various factors impacting heart rate during running, from age and exercise intensity to fitness levels, with a focus on determining what's considered normal.

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As a runner, one of the most important biometrics you should consider is your heart rate while running. Your average heart rate while running gives tremendous insight into how hard you’re working or the intensity of your run.

Your exercise heart rate increases with effort or intensity in a fairly linear and predictable pattern, meaning that as you run faster or harder (uphill, for example), your heart rate increases at a similar and steady progression in accordance with the increase in exercise intensity. 

Moreover, because your heart rate while running correlates with your aerobic effort, heart rate data from a heart rate monitor can be used as a practical, feasible, and tangible measurement of the intensity level of your run.

On a mid-to-high-effort run, a person aged 30 will have a maximum heart rate of 190 beats per minute (BPM), making their average heart rate for a mid-to-high-effort run between 133 and 162 BPM.

But what should your heart rate be while running? What is the average heart rate while running based on your age? Is there an ideal running heart rate? Can your heart rate while running be too high?

In this guide, we’re going to look at:

Let’s get started!

A woman wearing a grey jumper looks at her watch and measures her heart rate.

Why Is Heart Rate While Running Important?

As mentioned, your running heart rate is a good indication of the effort you’re exerting while running. In order to get the most out of your training and become a faster and stronger runner, it’s important to ensure you’re training at the right intensity. 

If you habitually run too slow or take it too easy, you’ll fail to provide the exercise stimulus your body needs to get faster and fitter as a runner. In other words, you’ll stunt your progress.

But what happens if you run with a high heart rate?

On the other hand, if you hammer your easy runs or run recovery runs too fast, you risk overtraining and won’t give your body the rest you need to recover from hard workouts and races. Over time, you’ll run yourself into the ground.

For example, people often ask, “Is 180 a high heart rate when running?” or “Is 170 bpm good when running?”

Of course, the answer depends on what you are looking to get out of your workout. A 180 bpm heart rate is quite normal if you are running at high-intensity.

However, if you have scheduled a long, slow run and notice your heart rate creeping up to above 170 bpm, chances are you need to slow down.

Sometimes, it can be tough to pull back on the pace or rate of perceived exertion. No one wants to upload a slow run to Strava. I get it.

But by consistently running at a high heart rate, we are not maximizing the performance gains that come from long aerobic runs at a low RPE.

One other note: Your heart rate while running can also be used as a marker of progress. Much like other stats such as distance and pace, you can look at your heart rate data on certain benchmark runs and compare them over time.

For example, if you have a favorite five-mile neighborhood loop, periodically run it at the same pace and observe how your average heart rate while running gradually drops over time. 

It may feel daunting for beginners. But, the fitter you get, the easier it becomes to maintain that same pace on the run, as evidenced by a lower average running heart rate.

A man and a woman look at their sport watch.

Average Target Heart Rate Zones While Running, Sorted By Age

Use the table we have created below to find your average target heart rate while running according to your age, along with the heart rate ranges for each training zone.

Age In YearsMaximum Heart RateAverage Target Running Heart RateAverage Zone 1 HRAverage Zone 2 HRAverage Zone 3 HRAverage Zone 4 HRAverage Zone 5 HR
20200140-170110130150170190
25195137-146107127146166185
30190133-162105124143162181
35185130-139102120139157176
40180126-15399117135153171
45175123-13196114131149166
50170119-12894111128145162
55165116-12491107124140157
60160112-13688104120136152
65155109-11685101116132147
70150105-1288398113128143
75145102-1098094109123138
8014098-1197791105119133

Factors That Influence Your Average Heart Rate While Running

Aside from the pace you’re running or the intensity of your workout, there are several factors that affect your average heart rate while running. Some of these factors, termed interpersonal factors, are responsible for differences in average heart rate while running between two different runners. 

Intrapersonal factors, on the other hand, are responsible for differences in average heart rate while running for the same runner doing a run at the perceived intensity level on two different occasions.

3 Interpersonal Factors that Affect Average Heart Rate While Running 

#1: Age

Maximum heart rate decreases rather linearly with age, so much so that the traditional—and still widely used—formula used to estimate max heart rate is simply 220 — age in years. 

An older runner will usually have a predictably lower average heart rate1Nikolaidis, P. T., Rosemann, T., & Knechtle, B. (2018). Age-Predicted Maximal Heart Rate in Recreational Marathon Runners: A Cross-Sectional Study on Fox’s and Tanaka’s Equations. Frontiers in Physiology9. https://doi.org/10.3389/fphys.2018.00226while running than a younger runner because the same effort level or heart rate training zone correlates to lower heart rates for an older runner.

A man wearing red measures his heart rate.

For example, consider a 20-year-old runner and a 50-year-old runner. Using the simple age-predicted maximum heart rate formula 220 — age, the 20-year-old runner has a max heart rate of 200 bpm, while the 50-year-old runner has a max heart rate of just 170 bpm

If both of these runners head out for a high Zone 2 aerobic run at 70% effort, the younger runner will have an average running heart rate of 140 bpm, whereas the older runner running at a comparable intensity would have an average heart rate of 119 bpm.

#2: Fitness Level

The fitter you are, the lower your average heart rate because your heart contracts more forcefully, leading to a larger stroke volume (amount of blood pumped per beat).

The higher your fitness level, you’ll likely have a lower resting heart rate. What is a resting heart rate? Resting heart rate (RHR) is the number of heartbeats per minute when the body is at rest, so not moving.

It’s often easiest to measure your resting heart rate overnight. The normal resting heart rate for adults is typically between 60 and 100 beats per minute (bpm). However, a low heart rate will often be found in athletes and can go as low as 30-40 bpm.

#3: Medications

Certain medications can increase or decrease your heart rate. For example, beta-blockers reduce your heart rate, while stimulants (medications for ADHD or narcolepsy, for example) increase your heart rate.

If you habitually take medication that impacts your heart rate, expect there to be differences in your average heart rate while running compared to what would otherwise be expected for your age and fitness level.

Note that medications can also potentially affect a single runner’s average running heart rate from day to day (intrapersonal factor) if your dosage or timing of your medication relative to your run changes.

If you have questions regarding your medications and how they affect your heart health, you should seek professional medical advice.

A man goes for a run with a chest strap heart rate monitor.

4 Intrapersonal Factors that Affect Average Heart Rate While Running 

#1: Stress

Emotional stress can increase your heart rate. Stress triggers the sympathetic nervous system, as frequently described as the “fight-or-flight” response, which triggers an increase in heart rate and respiration rate.

This is a primitive biological response designed to help prepare your body to flee danger.

If you are stressed or anxious before or during a run, your average running heart rate will ride higher than on a day when you are calm and serene. 

#2: Fatigue 

If you sleep poorly or are overtired, your heart rate while running will be higher. In fact, even your resting heart rate can be a good indication of your recovery from training and fatigue level. 

If you track your resting heart rate and notice it is trending upward or notably higher one day, you’re not recovering fully from your workouts or have been sleeping poorly.

The same principle applies to your average heart rate while running; if your body is tired, it takes more effort or work to do any level of exercise, and your running heart rate will be higher.

A man wearing black checks his sport watch next to a lake.

#3: Environmental Conditions 

The weather or environmental conditions can also affect your average running heart rate from one run to the next. 

Your body has to work harder in hot and humid conditions, and natural cooling mechanisms like evaporative cooling through sweating are less efficient. As such, your average running heart rate will increase on a hot run compared to mild conditions. 

#4: Caffeine Usage

Caffeine is a stimulant, so it typically increases your heart rate. If you have a large cup of coffee and then head out for a run an hour or two later, expect a higher average heart rate while running than if you wait eight hours before hitting the pavement.

A runner wearing white and pink runs down a road.

How to Calculate Your Target Average Running Heart Rate

The American Heart Association2Mayo Clinic. (2021, June 17). Exercise intensity: How to measure it. Mayo Clinic. https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887recommends a target heart rate of 70-85% of your maximum heart rate for vigorous physical activity, such as running.

You can calculate your target average heart rate while running by first estimating your maximum rate (220 – age in years). 

Then, find 70% of this value by multiplying your result by 0.7. This is the lower value in the range. Finally, multiply your age-estimated max heart rate by 0.85. This is your upper value.

For example, if you are 40 years old, your estimated max heart rate is 220 – 40 = 180 bpm. Then, 0.7 x 180 = 126 bpm and 0.85 x 180 = 153 bpm. Therefore, your target average heart rate while running should be 126 – 153 bpm.

Keep in mind that 220 – age is just a rough estimate of your actual heart rate. The standard deviation is nearly 17 beats in either direction.

A woman checks her heart rate watch at the gym.

According to researchers3Shargal, E., Kislev-Cohen, R., Zigel, L., Epstein, S., Pilz-Burstein, R., & Tenenbaum, G. (2015). Age-related maximal heart rate: examination and refinement of prediction equations. The Journal of Sports Medicine and Physical Fitness55(10), 1207–1218. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/25389634/, a more accurate estimation can be found through the following formulas:

  • Maximum Heart Rate for Males = 208.609-0.716 x age 
  • Maximum Heart Rate for Females = 209.273-0.804 x age

For example, if you’re a 40-year-old male: 208.609-0.716 x 40 = 180 bpm. If you’re a 40-year-old female: 209.273-0.804 x 40 = 177 bpm.

A graphic of a smart watch and its features.

Is My Heart Rate While Running Too High?

When it comes to running, faster and harder aren’t always better. It’s important to pay attention to the goal of your workout and keep your heart rate and effort level within the intended heart rate zone.

If you are finding that your heart rate is routinely higher than your target average heart rate while running—particularly if you’re using a true maximum heart rate rather than an estimation—you probably need to slow your pace. 

Chronically exceeding your target running heart rate can compromise recovery and lead to overtraining, according to research4Atwal, S., Porter, J., & MacDonald, P. (2002). Cardiovascular effects of strenuous exercise in adult recreational hockey: the Hockey Heart Study. CMAJ: Canadian Medical Association Journal166(3), 303–307. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC99308/.

If you want to know more about heart rate training, consider working with a personal trainer or running coach. They will be able to match the correct aerobic exercises to your fitness goals.

If you have additional concerns, you should speak to your healthcare provider. Particularly if you suffer from high blood pressure, heart disease, or regularly experience chest pains.

To explore more reasons as to why your heart rate may be fluctuating while running, check out our article:

References

Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

5 thoughts on “What’s A Typical Average Heart Rate While Running?”

  1. There is so much that is smoke and mirrors on this heart rate while running because there is no accurate way to calculate max heart rate, other than through consistency of max effort workouts. I am 55 and have been an active runner for most of my life. I focus on trails now with occasional road running and over the last few years my weekly totals have varied from 30-50 miles a week to less than 10 miles a week at times when focusing on other physical pursuits. No matter, my consistent max heart rate is around 185 (for a 55 year old, I should be dead with a burst heart). Even when I run as slowly as possible, I can’t run in zone 3, only consistently in zone 4. When I hike, even strenuously, I tend to hike in zone 1 and 2. Moderate runs – a 6-7 of 10 effort always has me in my max heart rate zone – zone 5. To get to consistent zone 4, I need to shuffle along often slower than I walk. And, keep in mind that my heart rate zones, based on my Garmin tracker, are based off a max heart rate around 185.

    Reply
    • Hi Michael have you got any advice for me because like you my heart rate seems miles too high, I was fit as a fiddle playing footy till i was 42 but since then not much at all now aged 65 have been trying to get fit on a treadmill since november 3/4 times a wk walking/running i go upstairs to my treadmill my hr is 130-135 mostly, i want to train aerobic pace but according to all info im already past the aerobic stage 3 hr so i walk at 2.1mph which stays at 130-135 if I run at that same pace even for 5 mins my hr goes upto about 167 regulary and out of breath so therefore stop running, i believe my hr strap is accurate, I recently had a ecg which shows irregular hbeat doc seems not bothered about it, so im not sure what my hrmax is? do you think i should hammer it and see or do you have any advice? I really think I should be quite fit by now and was hoping maybe as youve been doing it for ages what works for you? any help appreciated.

      Reply
  2. I am 62, female, and my max HR is 190. On a typical run my average HR is about 155-160. I don’t feel particularly tired or stressed at this rate, and I feel if I keep my HR at the “recommended” average, I’m not really training and might as well be having a stroll…
    My resting HR is 55 and I’m fit and healthy.
    not sure if I should be pleased with myself or worried!
    Any thoughts?

    Reply
    • Sarah – you sound like me. I’m 60 year old female, I’ve been a fairly regular runner most of my life and a very consistent runner (15-20 miles per week) for the past 12 years. My regular heart rate while running at zone 3-4 is 150-160. I don’t feel uncomfortable and feel that I’m going at an easy pace. In high heat and humidity it gets higher by about 10 BPM so on long runs (greater than 4 miles) in those conditions I do a 4/1 minutes run/walk split to keep it down and stay aerobic. Based on effort I feel like my MHR is 185.

      Reply
  3. It’s comforting to hear other older runners with heart rates higher than the charts suggest. I’m 66 and it’s not unusual for my heart rate to go over 200 during my tougher workouts preparing for my upcoming marathons: Boston then Grandmas then Chicago then Houston.
    Bryan

    Reply

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