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130616 Using target heart rate zones to improve your fitness

130616 Using target heart rate zones to improve your fitness

Exercising in different target heart rate (THR) zones will affect how your body adapts and ultimately responds to the demands placed upon it. No matter what your fitness objectives may be, from preventing a chronic disease, to improving your cardiovascular health, losing weight or preparing for competition, your chances improve greatly by working out within certain THR zones that are specific to your individual capabilities.
The zones represent percentages of your maximum heart rate (MHR) which is the fastest your heart rate should beat for your age and fitness level.

There are several methods used to find your MHR. One of the most common is subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 20 years old your MHR is in the area of 200 beats per minute (b/m). If on the other hand you are 60 years old, your MHR will be around 160 b/m.

Once you have figured out what your maximum heart rate should be then it is time to start taking percentages of this maximum heart rate. Using a 20-year-old and their MHR of 200 b/m as an example, the following calculations will show the percentage range that will improve their fitness. 200 x 70% = 140 b/m. For the 60-year-old training for competition their calculation would be 160 x 80%=128 b/m. Both of these calculations were based on the lowest percentage in that zone.

To increase the intensity and value of the exercise session each of these people would want to use higher percentage figures in their calculations.

Once you have figured out what your maximum heart rate should be then it is time to start taking percentages of this maximum heart rate. Using a 20-year-old and their MHR of 200 b/m as an example, the following calculations will show the percentage range that will improve their fitness. 200 x 70% = 140 b/m. For the 60-year-old training for competition their calculation would be 160 x 80%=128 b/m. Both of these calculations were based on the lowest percentage in that zone.

To increase the intensity and value of the exercise session each of these people would want to use higher percentage figures in their calculations.

After you have figured out the intensity zone that matches your goal then it is time to begin the warm up. A warm up does just as it says; it raises the pulse rate, increases the speed of breathing and nerve impulses, warms the muscle tissue and generates a slight sweat. A warm up of five to ten minutes will be sufficient for most activities. The warm-up ends with the first set of your workout session.

According to the American College of Sports Medicine and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, thirty to fifty minutes or more of moderate intensity exercise each week will improve your overall physical health.

Here are the training zones.

  • Daily activity is generally within the 50 to 60% maximum heart rate zone.
  • Improved weight control lies within the 60 to 70% zone.
  • Increased physical fitness becomes more of a reality between the 70 to 80% zones.
  • Competitive athletes work out within the 80 to 100% maximum heart rate zones.
    • This even holds true if you are a strength athlete because the better conditioned your heart, the more you are going to be able to lift the heavy iron without getting so winded after a heavy set of squats.

When you exercise, find your pulse on your wrist by placing your index, middle and ring finger, not your thumb, over the artery. Count for one minute to make either mental note or written note of how fast your pulse was moving.

Periodically during your exercise session, monitor your heart rate so you stay within the exercise zone you have selected.

These zones are not set in concrete. If you have the ability to increase the intensity, you will derive greater health benefits from the session.

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