Freak OR Geek? Is my maximum heart rate due to a freak of nature or a tech breakthrough?

I’m a 47 year old male. At this age, a typical maximum heart rate is 173 beats per minute (bpm), mine is 198bpm (a 22-year old’s heart). I’ve been using a body hack to do cardio training for the past 15 years on-and-off. (It is a form of intense cardiovascular exercise induced by electrical stimulation of the legs. It has only been available to people in clinical trials).
My cardiovascular responses are atypical, to say the least, especially for someone who does almost no ‘ordinary exercise’. It could be a coincidence but statistically seems extraordinarily improbable (1 in many thousands) and more importantly achieved with an alternative exercise method.

Ok, so what?

Writing in the New York Times and referring to a US-team rower, in his mid-twenties, who was asked to row as hard as he could for six minutes Gina Kolata writes (2).
”His pulse rate hit 200 at 90 seconds into the test,” Dr. Kirkendall said. ”And he held it there for the rest of the test.” A local cardiologist was looking on in astonishment and told Dr. Kirkendall, ”You know, there’s not a textbook in the world that says a person could have done that.”
For six minutes this ‘old man’ (me!) exceeded the heart rate response of the young rower that caused such bewilderment… furthermore, it was after almost a half hour of ‘supra-maximal’ exercise (heart rate average of 180bpm).

Oh… and this wasn’t done with ‘ordinary’ exercise.

See our crowdfunding video of BionicGym in action on Indiegogo.

[Note to the earnest – this is tongue-in-cheek but with a serious message!]


1. Using the most commonly used formula [Karvonen] 220 – age with a SD±7 198 = µ + 3.4σ . If you prefer the Inbar equation; HRmax=205.8-0.685(age) = 174bpm for a 46 year old Back in August my resting heart rate was measured at 45bpm (averaged over a minute). The American College of Sports Medicine put 50-57bpm as ‘athlete level’ for my age. So a heart rate reserve of ~150bpm for a 46 year old would seem most uncommon. But much more importantly is how it was achieved, i.e. through technology. The rates are non-pathological and not due to interference, etc. – heart rates have been double-checked by palpation and pulse oximetry methods.

2. New York Times 04/24/2001