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J Gerontol A Biol Sci Med Sci. 1996 Jul;51(4):M165-71.

Relative heart rate, heart rate reserve, and VO2 during submaximal exercise in the elderly.

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  • 1Center for Exercise Science, University of Florida, Gainesville, USA.



The purpose of this study was to examine the relationships among relative maximal heart rate (%HRmax), maximal heart rate reserve (%HRmax reserve), and maximal oxygen uptake (%VO2max) during submaximal exercise by elderly subjects.


VO2max and HRmax were determined on 36 women and 19 men, 60 to 80 yrs of age, by a maximal treadmill test to volitional exhaustion. On a separate day, subjects underwent a submaximal treadmill protocol consisting of three 6-min exercise stages at treadmill speeds and grades estimated to elicit 40%, 60%, and 80% of HRmax reserve. Cardiorespiratory responses were determined during mins 4-5 and 5-6 of each stage.


Measured exercise intensities expressed by the three methods were: %HRmax reserve = 36, 55, and 79%; %HRmax = 65, 75, and 88%; %VO2max = 53, 69, and 88%. %HRmax was greater (p < .05) than %VO2max at 53 and 69% of VO2max. %HRmax reserve was less (p < .05) than %VO2max for all three intensities. Slopes and intercepts for the linear regression equations relating %VO2max with %HRmax and with %HRmax reserve differed between men and women (p < .05). The regression equation relating %VO2max and %HRmax was y = -22.8 + 1.2 (%HRmax) -13.0 (Gender) + 0.2 (%HRmax x Gender): standard error of the estimate (SEE) = 9.7% and R2 = .71. The regression equation relating %VO2max and %HRmax reserve was y = 32.4 + 0.7 (%HRmax reserve) -10.9 (Gender) + 0.2 (%HRmax reserve x Gender): SEE = 9.8% and R2 = .70 (Gender: F = 0; M = 1).


The data indicate that there is considerable variability among methods of expressing exercise intensity and that %HRmax more closely represents %VO2max than does %HRmax reserve (p < .05) in older adults. These results are in contrast to what has been shown with younger subjects and with American College of Sports Medicine guidelines for exercise prescription.

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