Fitness Blog

Determining your target heart rate

Aerobic exercise should be moderate yet challenging.   It should not be too intense, and yet not too easy.  For many people, especially beginners, this can be difficult to determine.  A simple way for novice exercisers to determine their level of aerobic intensity is the talk test.  If you can talk but you are having a difficult time carrying on a conversation, then that is a good level. You want to work out at a level that allows you to breathe but not so easy that you can sing.

Another more precise way to measure the intensity of your workout is using a heart rate monitor.  A heart rate monitor is a small watch like device usually worn on the wrist,  It measures your heart rate digitally and lets you know ifyou are working above your target heart range. If you're working out above your target heart rate, you're working out anaerobically.  If you are working out below your target heart range, you're probably not burning enough calories for weight loss.  When you work out within your target heart range, you're working out aerobically and burning the maximum number of calories you can.
Using a heart rate monitor requires that you first know your maximum heart rate.  This can be determined using asimple formula called the maximal heart rate formula.  It is simple to calculate: 220 minus your age.  So if you are 30 years old, 220 minus 30 = 190.

For beginners, you probably want to exercise at 50-60% of your maximum heart rate.  For intermediates, you want to aim for 60-70% of your maximum heart rate and for advanced persons, strive for 75%-85%.  This formula does not however take into account your health or fitness levels or any other conditions that could affect your heart rate.  You then Multiply your maximum heart rate by the upper limit of your target heart range.  So in the case above that would be 190 x 85% (or .85)  =  161 (85% of their maximum heart rate).

You can also take your your pulse manually while exercising by pressing lightly on your carotid artery (in the hollow of your neck, to either side of your windpipe) Use your index and middle fingers to exert pressure just light enough to feel the artery throb as your heart beats.  Count the number of times your heart beats over 10 seconds and multiply by 6 to get your heart rate.  Compare the pulse you counted to the target heart rate range you calculated before exercising.

We are all starting at different endurance levels and the more you exercise, the more your endurance increases, so continually reevaluate your target heart rate to ensure you continually burn calories.  There are other ways to calculate target heart rate and many online calculators that will do it for you.  Between the talk test, manual pulse test and heart rate monitor, you should be able to easily stay within your aerobic fat burning zone.


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