To achieve fat burning adaptations, according to MAF Method we should be at or below the MAF HR – this can be walking, running, cycling, or swimming. The closer you exercise to your MAF HR, the more body fat you will burn. When you go above this zone and your body is over worked, it requires fast-burn fuel (carbs or sugar) leading to more sugar cravings and overtraining risks.

The 180 Formula: Heart-rate monitoring for real aerobic training.

Use Maffetone’s 180 formula to calculate your optimal heart rate to develop your aerobic system. We call it your MAF HR and it’s your fat burning threshold and vital to your success.

  • Heart Rate Monitors

You will need a heart rate monitor to train at your MAF HR.

  • An effective aerobic system

A strong aerobic base will help you burn fat effectively, prevent injury and set you up to go faster and last longer. Give it a try!

Training at various intensities (not aerobic) affects both posture and gait: the greater the anaerobic work, the more distorted the body’s mechanics become. These changes are due, in part, to previously existing muscle imbalance and muscle problems that develop during the workout. By correlating this mechanical efficiency with heart rate at various points before, during and after workouts, Dr. Phil Maffetone found an ideal training heart rate—one which promoted optimal aerobic function without triggering significant anaerobic activity, excess stress, muscle imbalance or other problems. The system that controls the body’s stress response is functionally linked to the anaerobic system. In other words, if you depend too much on your anaerobic system, you’ll be more stressed, and therefore more likely to overtrain, become injured and using glucose, not fat for energy.

What is the 180 Formula?

To find your maximum aerobic training heart rate, there are two important steps.

  1. Subtract your age from 180.

  2. Modify this number by selecting among the following categories the one that best matches your

fitness and health profile:

a)  If you have or are recovering from a major illness (heart disease, any operation or hospital stay, etc.) or are on any regular medication, subtract an additional 10.

b)  If you are injured, have regressed in training or competition, get more than two colds or bouts of flu per year, have allergies or asthma, or if you have been inconsistent or are just getting back into training, subtract an additional 5.

c)  If you have been training consistently (at least four times weekly) for up to two years without any of the problems just mentioned, keep the number (180–age) the same

d)  If you have been training for more than two years without any of the problems listed above, and have made progress in competition without injury, add 5.

For example, if you are 30 years old and fit into category (b), you get the following: 180–30=150. Then 150–5=145 beats per minute (bpm). In this example, 145 must be the highest heart rate for all training. This allows you to most efficiently build an aerobic base. Training above this heart rate rapidly incorporates anaerobic function, exemplified by a shift to burning more sugar and less fat for fuel.


The 180 Formula may need to be further individualized for people over the age of 65. For some of these athletes, up to 10 beats may have to be added for those in category (d) in the 180 Formula, and depending on individual levels of fitness and health. This does not mean 10 should automatically be added, but that an honest self-assessment is important.

For athletes 16 years of age and under, the formula is not applicable; rather, a heart rate of 165 may be best.

Once a maximum aerobic heart rate is found, a training range from this heart rate to 10 beats below could be used. For example, if an athlete’s maximum aerobic heart rate is determined to be 155, that person’s aerobic training zone would be 145 to 155 bpm. However, the more training closer to the maximum 155, the quicker an optimal aerobic base will be developed.

Don’t think in terms of distance. Think in terms of time. What I would do is start 1 week with 5 consecutive days of cardio. Do 15 minutes at MAF heart rate, with 15 minutes of warm-up (20 BPM below MAF) and 15 minutes of cool-down also 20 BPM below. If that works for 5 consecutive days, after the two days of rest, bump it up to 30. Starting with a low training volume and increasing if you can handle it will benefit you a lot more than overreaching at first. 🙂