Methodological and practical application issues in exercise prescription using the heart rate reserve and oxygen uptake reserve methods

J Sci Med Sport. 2011 Jan;14(1):46-57. doi: 10.1016/j.jsams.2010.07.008. Epub 2010 Sep 15.


Exercise intensity is an important aspect of enhancing health-related fitness. Relationships between the percentages of heart rate reserve (%HRR), maximal oxygen uptake (%VO(2max)) and oxygen uptake reserve (%VO₂R) have been proposed as being effective for exercise intensity prescription. The present paper reviewed experimental studies published between 1966 and 2010, which investigated the relationships between the %HRR, %VO(2max) and %VO₂R. The following aspects were focused upon: (a) comparisons of the relationships between %HRR, %VO(2max) and %VO₂R at different exercise intensities; (b) methodological differences in determining resting VO₂ and VO(2max) and associated effects on the above relationships; (c) applicability of the %HRR-%VO(2max) and %HRR-%VO₂R relationships for exercise prescription. Fifteen studies published between 1997 and 2010 met inclusion criteria. Five studies observed the %HRR-%VO₂R relationship, while the others also investigated the %HRR-%VO(2max) relationship. Six studies found that the %HRR was closer to the %VO₂R than the %VO(2max). Most studies did not satisfy the recommended methodological criteria for assessing the resting VO₂, or used incremental test protocols which may have underestimated VO(2max). None investigated the stability of the %HRR-%VO₂R relationship in training conditions, such as during prolonged submaximal exercise. In conclusion, many of the reviewed studies presented methodological limitations that compromised their results in relation to the application of the %HRR-%VO₂R relationship for prescribing aerobic training.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Cardiovascular Physiological Phenomena
  • Chronic Disease / therapy
  • Exercise / physiology*
  • Exercise Therapy
  • Heart Rate / physiology
  • Humans
  • Maximal Expiratory Flow Rate
  • Motor Activity / physiology*
  • Oxygen Consumption / physiology*
  • Physical Endurance / physiology
  • Physical Exertion / physiology*
  • Physical Fitness / physiology*
  • Practice Guidelines as Topic
  • Societies, Medical