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Determine Your Cardio Heart Rate Zone, Increase Intensity

Oct 24, 2009

Although even mild exercise is desirable to maintain fitness and support weight loss, exercise that produces a higher cardio heart rate can increase those benefits. Understanding your cardio heart rate can help you design fitness routines that are highly effective.

Fat Burning Zone

A common misconception surrounds the concept of the “fat burning zone.” Many people believe you achieve a fat burning zone by doing moderate aerobic activity, as opposed to high aerobic activity. It is believed that although you are burning less calories in this moderate activity, the calories you do burn come from fat. There is some truth to this; your body accesses more carbohydrates and less fat the harsher the pace of activity. However, since so many more calories are burned with higher aerobic activity, you still technically burn more fat with more intense exercise. 

 Find Your Target Heart Rate

Finding your target heart rate involves a little bit of quiet focus and a little bit of math. You start by finding your resting heart rate. Simply find your pulse and count the beats for one minute. Most people have heart rates between 17-25 beats per ten seconds. Take that information and apply it to this formula. (The age 23 and resting heart rate of 65 beats per minute have been plugged into the equation, substitute your own).

  • 220 - 23 (age) = 197
  • 197 - 65 (resting heart rate) = 132
  • 132 * 65% (low end of heart rate) OR 85% (high end) = 85.8 OR 112.2
  • 85.8 + 65 (resting heart rate) = 150 112.2 + 65 (rhr) = 177

The target heart rate zone for this person would be 150 to 177. This is the traditional “fat burning zone.”

Increase Intensity To Burn More

Although you can burn fat steadily once you have reached your target heart rate, you can still burn more calories, and thereby more fat, by increasing the intensity of your work out. Different heart rate zones have different advantages, depending on which benefits you most seek from your exercise.

You must be very careful not to stress your body beyond what it can handle. Working at an intensity slightly higher than your target heart rate, 10 -20 percent higher, will take you out of the Energy Efficient Zone into aerobic exercise. Aerobic exercise burns fat at a higher rate while increasing your cardiovascular strength. If you raise your heart rate another 10%, you will find yourself in anaerobic exercise. This phase slows fat burning as the intensity requires your body to use the sugar, or lactic acid, stored in your muscles. However, this phase does continue to burn calories and can result in weight loss.

How Much is Enough?

It is not necessary to reach aerobic, anaerobic or even a target heart rate with every daily exercise routine. You will see weight loss results if you reach or overtake your target heart rate three times a week. While experienced athletes can sustain this activity for an upwards of an hour each session, the beginner should start with no more than 20 minutes of an advanced heart rate per workout.

Exercise is arguably the most important part of maintaining a healthy lifestyle and a fit bodyweight. Know what level of exercise is best for you, and what heart rate will yield you the most desirable results. Always consult a doctor before beginning any new fitness regime, and make sure your physician agrees with what your target heart rate should be.

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