Has anyone looked into the benefits of the 220-age versus Karvonen method of heart rate training zones (i.e., training results from using both)?
No true studies have been done to compare the benefits of both. This is probably due to the fact that there is no real need to determine the benefit of one over the other as metabolic gains are based on the exercise intensity that the formulas provide. As such, there are studies that compare the exercise intensities prescribed by the Karvonen formula versus those prescribed by using a percentage of the Predicted Maximal Heart Rate (%PMHR) method. Below is a table I devised from several sources and use as a comparative guide when determining exercise intensities. The table aligns %PMHR, the Karvonen formula, Metabolic Equivalent (METS) and the Rate of Perceived Exertion (RPE).
||< 35 %
||< 30 %
Table 1. Intensity comparisons. (Drawn from a compilation of Powers & Howley 1997,p.292; Wilmore & Costill 1994,p.524; deVries & Housh 1994,p.297; Fox, Bowers & Foss 1993,p.291; Howley & Franks 1992,p.165).
Putting this into practice: 20 year old subject with a Resting Heart Rate of 50 bpm wanting to train at a heavy intensity.
- %PMHR (80%)
- (220 – age) x Training Intensity Percentage
- (220 – 20) x 80%
- 160 bpm
- Karvonen (75%)
- [(220 – age) – RHR] x Training Intensity percentage + RHR
- [(220 – 20) – 50] x 75% + 50
- 162.5 bpm
A final point to consider is that the less fit the participant, the higher the training heart rate will be as the impact of RHR will be greater.
- Subject A: 20 year old with a Resting Heart Rate of 50 bpm wanting to train at a moderate intensity = a training heart rate of 155 bpm.
- Subject B: 20 year old with a Resting Heart Rate of 70 bpm wanting to train at a moderate intensity = a training heart rate of 161 bpm.
With this in mind, close attention must be paid to the exercise intensity selected for the participant in regards to fitness levels. Alternatively, the more conservative %PMHR could be used (as shown below).
Subject A/B: 20 year old with a Resting Heart Rate of either 50 or 70 bpm wanting to train at a moderate intensity (70%) = a training heart rate of 140 bpm.
- DeVreis, H.A., & Housh, T.J.,(1994). Physiology of exercise. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Benchmark.
- Fox, E.L., Bowers, R.W. & Foss, M.L., (1993). The Physiological Basis for Exercise and Sport 5th Edition. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Benchmark.
- Howley, E.T., & Franks,B.D., (1992). Health Fitness Instructor’s Handbook. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.
- Powers, S.K., & Howley, E.T., (1997). Exercise Physiology. Third Edition. Madison, Wisconsin: Brown and Benchmark.
- Wilmore, J.H. & Costill, D.L., (1994) Physiology of Sport and Exercise. Champaign, IL: Human Kinetics.