Aerobic Zone Heart Rates and Benefits

Heart Rate on Smartwatch
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The aerobic exercise zone is the intensity at which your body is using its aerobic metabolism system to produce energy from fat and glycogen. It spans the divide between moderate-intensity and vigorous-intensity exercise. In general, you must use your major muscle groups continuously, especially your legs, to bring your heart rate up into this zone.

Aerobic activities include running, brisk walking, cycling, swimming, and rowing. Cardio exercise machines such as treadmills, elliptical trainers, stair steppers, rowers, and ski machines can all provide an aerobic workout. 

Aerobic Zone Heart Rates

There is a narrower and a broader range of heart rates given for the aerobic exercise zone. A wider definition of the aerobic zone is from 40% to 85% of maximum heart rate. Within this wide range, you are using aerobic metabolism during exercise and the body doesn't have to switch to anaerobic metabolism.

A narrower and more commonly used definition involves the five heart rate zones. In this definition, the aerobic zone is a heart rate between 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate. You are exercising at moderate to vigorous intensity. In this range, 50% of your calories burned in this zone are fats, 1% are proteins, and 50% are carbohydrates.

Maximum heart rate (MHR) varies by age, gender, and athletic condition. You can use a heart rate zone chart or calculator to find your result based on your physical characteristics and condition. For a range based only on age and a resting heart rate of 60, you can use this chart:



Aerobic Zone BPM

25 195 136 to 156 bpm
30 190 133 to 152 bpm
35 185 129 to 148 bpm
40 180 125 to 144 bpm
45 175 122 to 140 bpm
50 170 118 to 136 bpm
55 165 115 to 132 bpm
60 160 112 to 128 bpm
65 155 108 to 124 bpm
70 150 105 to 120 bpm

Aerobic Zone Benefits

The aerobic heart rate zone is excellent for increasing the number and size of blood vessels in your muscles and improve your lung ventilation. As a result, your body is able to carry more oxygen to your muscles and take away waste products. You also will be burning stored fat for fuel, which is desirable for those who want to reduce body fat and lose weight.

Moderate Effort

To an activity to be considered aerobic exercise, you are doing sustained major muscle group effort for 10 minutes or more. You are breathing harder than normal to take in the oxygen needed for aerobic metabolism, but you are not completely out of breath. The effort should feed within the range of moderate intensity.

  • The aerobic zone is at the top of the moderate-intensity exercise zone (50% to 70% of maximum heart rate). This heart rate can be achieved with brisk walking.
  • The aerobic zone is at the bottom of the vigorous-intensity zone (70% to 85% of maximum heart rate). This heart rate can be achieved by running or racewalking.


You are able to exercise in this zone for a long period of time, first using glycogen for energy and then, after about 40 minutes, stored fat. Even people who have lean bodies have plenty of stored fat unless they have been starving. This is why you can perform endurance exercise for long periods. You can replenish carbohydrates while you are exercising in the aerobic zone to keep the supply available to your muscles.

Measuring Your Heart Rate

You can measure your heart rate during exercise in several ways. You can take your pulse at your wrist or neck, counting for 60 seconds. There are apps that you can use to take your pulse on demand as well. But it is less disruptive for your exercise activities to use a heart rate monitor or pulse monitor.

Pulse monitors are built into many fitness bands, such as the Fitbit Charge, and into smartwatches such as the Apple Watch. But it is more accurate to wear a chest strap heart rate monitor. You can see your heart rate and get alerts when you are in or out of the exercise zone, either on a phone app, fitness band, or wrist display.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Stöggl TL, Sperlich B. The training intensity distribution among well-trained and elite endurance athletes. Front Physiol. 2015;6:295. doi:10.3389/fphys.2015.00295

Additional Reading

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.