Using Heart Rate as Your Guide

When you exercise, are you working hard or hardly working?           

Knowing what your heart rate is during exercise can help determine how hard you are working. You may think you have had a good workout, but if you never raise your heart rate you may not be receiving all the benefits.

Using a heart rate monitor is a great way to know what your HR is during your workout. It is easier than checking your pulse. Working out at a moderate to vigorous pace (50-85% of your max HR) is a good goal to have. To find your max HR you take 220 minus your age, this gives you your age predicted HR max in beats per minute (bpm). For example, if you are 45, your age predicted max HR is 175 bpm and your 50-85% zone is 88-149 bpm. If you are new to working out start by working in the lower end of the 50-80% zone, if you have been working out, working at an intensity closer to 80% would be good.

If you are trying to lose weight, knowing what heart zone you are working at can prove very useful in meeting your goals. The “fat burning” zone is 50-70% of your max HR. You will also build up your endurance while working in this zone. If you are looking to expend a greater amount of calories (also beneficial for losing weight) then working in your 70%-80% zone is better. Overall, knowing your heart rate can help you in determining relative intensities and monitor whether you could be working harder or if it is time to back off.

If you have questions about incorporating heart rate training into your exercise regimen, "Ask an Expert."