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Target heart rate training (guest post)

Thu, Jul 29, 2010

cardio, Guest Posts

What is my target and maximum heart rate, and why should I care?

When I go to the gym, the cardio machines always have this nifty little chart that shows what your “fat-burning” and “cardio” heart rate zones are. When I first started out on my weight loss journey, I ignored this chart. However, as I’ve delved into fitness a little more, I’ve learned that this chart is very important to know, so you can maximize the kind of workout you want: a fat-blasting workout or a cardiovascular workout.

Image from www.spokanefitnesscoach.com

Knowing your target heart rate (THR) zone is actually a great way to track the effectiveness of your workout.  Your THR is the range where sustained physical activity is considered safe and effective. The more fit you are, the higher the percentage can go. For serious athletes, knowing your THR can help you pace yourself without tiring out too quickly.

Your heart rate can also tell how hard you are working out. If your heart rate is not elevated enough, then you should move a little faster and work a little harder!  Tracking this information will help you improve your fitness level more quickly than merely guessing.

When you’re trying to lose weight, I’ve found that it can be complicated to figure out whether your heart rate should be in the “fitness/fat burning zone” or whether it should be in the “aerobic/cardio zone.” Which zone is best for you?

Typically, bodies burn a higher percentage of calories from fat in the “fat burning zone,” or at lower intensities (walking, using the elliptical at a leisurely rate).  In this zone, your heart rate is lower, usually in the “blue” zone.

That being said, actually burn more calories overall at higher intensity (higher heart rate), which is what most people who are trying to lose weight should actually aim for.

The chart below details the fat calories expended by a 130-pound woman during cardio exercise:

Low Intensity - 60-65%

Of Maximum Heart Rate

High Intensity - 80-85%

Of Maximum Heart Rate

Total Calories expended per min. 4.86 6.86
Fat Calories expended per min. 2.43 2.7
Total Calories expended in 30 min. 146 206
Total Fat calories expended in 30 min. 73 82
Percentage of fat calories burned 50% 39.85%

From The 24/5 Complete Personal Training Manual, 24 Hour Fitness, 2000

Exercises that will blast those calories quickly and efficiently, by elevating your heart rate, include interval training and plyometric exercises. You can learn more about these two kinds of exercises here:

Interval training

Plyometric exercises

What are the different heart rate zones?

Healthy Heart Zone (warm-up) — 50-60% of your maximum heart rate. This zone is the easiest to achieve, and can usually be hit by walking briskly.  If you stay solely in this zone, you can reap benefits of decreasing body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol.  85% of the calories burned in this zone are fats!

Fitness Zone (Fat Burning) – 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.  This zone is pretty much the same as the Healthy Heart Zone, but burns more calories.  85% of the calories burned in this zone are fats.

Aerobic Zone (Endurance Training) – 70-80% of your maximum heart rate.  Your cardiovascular and respiratory system will improve when you exercise within this zone.  It will increase the size and strength of your heart.  50% of the calories burned are from fat.

Anaerobic Zone (Performance Training) – 80-90% of your maximum heart rate.  You will improve your VO2 maximum (the highest amount of oxygen one can consume during exercise) and, consequently, your cardiorespiratory system.  You will also get a higher lactate tolerance ability, which means that your endurance will improve and you will be able to fight fatigue.  Olympic athletes typically exercise within this zone. 15% of the calories burned are from fat.

Red Line (Maximum Effort) – 90-100% of your maximum heart rate.  Although this zone burns the most calories, it is very intense, and probably too intense for most exercisers.  Only stay in this zone for a very short period of time, if at all. If you want to visit this zone, you probably should get cleared by a doctor first.

How do you find your target heart rate and maximum heart rate?

To figure out your target heart rate, visit this website.

Plug in your age, and click “submit.”

The Mayo Clinic website will give you a chart, with your THR identified. This is the “fat-burning zone” we discussed above.  To blast even more calories, exceed this threshold by elevating your heart rate even more. That will put you into the “Aerobic/Anerobic  Zone.”

This chart can help you calculate your maximum heart rate.

About Christine

My name is Christine and I run a little weight-loss blog called Phoenix Revolution.

I’m 32 years old, I had gastric banding surgery a little over a year ago, and I’ve lost just about 85 pounds so far. I’ve been learning about fitness, exercise, and weight loss (and love Miz Fit!), so I share my new insights on my blog from time to time. Stop by and check it out!

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21 Responses to “Target heart rate training (guest post)”

  1. Karen@WaistingTime says:

    Great post. My husband and I have debated the best level to work at because of that whole fat burning zone being lower thing. He has a new treadmill with a program where he puts in a target heart rate and the treadmill varies the speed and incline for him to keep him averaging that target. Pretty slick.

  2. messymimi says:

    An excellent, coherent explanation. Thank you.

  3. MrsFatass says:

    Great (and much needed) information, especially right before I head to the gym!

  4. CertifiablyFit says:

    Great guest post! I have been training using my heart rate monitor for about a year now. I normally am in the 80-85% range because I have been working on performance on my bike. Interestingly, I had some cardio tests done a few months ago and found that the standard calculation for max heart rate is inaccurate for me. I can train at a much higher heart rate because my max rate is much higher than most my age.

  5. Tracey @ I'm Not Superhuman says:

    This was a great post. I always wonder if the machines actually calculate a real heart rate or if it’s majorly skewed. Of course, I don’t care enough to buy a heart rate monitor since they’re kind of expensive!

  6. Joanna Sutter says:

    This is great 411! I just started wearing my heart rate monitor again last week and I’m glued to it. It’s just a great way to help me balance my perceived rate of exertion and my actual exertion.

  7. Sagan says:

    I really need to get a heart rate monitor. Or just take the time to check my pulse and count the beats before/during/after a workout the old fashioned way. Either way, I know next to nothing about getting target heart rate training zones, so it’s awesome to have this information!

  8. charlotte says:

    I used to be married to my heart rate monitor - there wasn’t a time of day I couldn’t tell you my heart rate and zone. And I think that was good for, like Christine points out, learning how it feels to train really intensely. It def. helped me learn to push myself. But now? Not even sure where my HRM is anymore:)

  9. tj says:

    great post! I wear a heart rate monitor when I do my pool exercises and track all of my workouts on excel (yes I am kinda geeky like that) But never really knew what the IN THE ZONE # meant. Thanks! :)

  10. Christine says:

    Thanks or letting me guest post, Miz Fit! You’re the best! :-)

  11. Natalia says:

    Hey Miz, What a great topic. Thanks so much for having Christine touch on this topic.

    I’ve been doing interval training. I really like it a lot…for me it makes the workout seem so much faster. :)

    Thanks Christine for this information!!


  12. Pure2Raw twins says:

    Great post! I have been doing very high intensity workouts lately and keeping my heart rate high for majority of the workouts and loving it. I have been liking pushing my body to another level because I am really starting to see results :)

  13. Dynamics says:

    Great Info…Going up the mountain. Will keep an eye on my heart rate and see how I do.

  14. Jody - Fit at 52 says:

    Great info! I am in much better shape for my age than others my age so for me, personally, I use the rate of perceived exertion so I can maximize my workout.

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  16. Claudia says:

    I do slow cardio, but also intervals if there is little time. I guess I should digg out my heart rate monitor … it’s somewhere …

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