Monitor your heart rate during aerobic exercises for specific fitness gains and overall health improvements. Aerobic exercises include continuous, rhythmic motions that use your arms and legs. These include cycling, walking, arm cycling, rowing, swimming, dancing, skating, and using an elliptical trainer. These exercises are sustainable for long durations and require an increase in heart rate to pump blood to your working muscles. Just how much is your heart working during these exercises? A heart rate monitor can tell you.
Just how much should your heart rate increase? The answer depends on your fitness goals. First, calculate your maximum heart rate, MHR, by subtracting your age from 220. For example, if you are 30 years of age, subtract 30 from 220 for a MHR of 190. 190 beats per minute, BPM, is the fastest you want your heart to beat during any activity and will require near a full-out effort.
Using a Heart Rate Monitor?
If your fitness goals are heart-health, including lowered blood pressure, reduced cholesterol and improved blood sugar, you can safely exercise at a heart rate zone that is between 50 and 60 percent of your MHR. To calculate this, multiply your MHR by 50 and 60 percent. Using the above example, your heart rate for this zone will be 95 to 114 BPM.
A slightly higher heart rate zone between 60 and 70 percent of MHR provides higher calorie-burning benefits and uses more fat calories to fuel the workout. You should be sweating when working out at this level, but still able to talk.
For endurance improvements, your longer aerobic workouts and to increase the calories used for exercise, increase the workout intensity to a level that elevates your heart rate between 70 and 80 percent of your MHR. For example, between 133 and 152 BPM. This zone should be the majority of your workouts to enhance your fitness, aid with weight loss and elevate your endurance.
When you increase your heart rate slightly higher, between 80 and 90 percent of your MHR, you enter into “Threshold” training. At this heart rate, your body hovers between exercising aerobically, in which it uses oxygen to convert fat to fuel, and anaerobically, in which it converts energy without oxygen. Anaerobic states cannot be maintained for as long as aerobic conditioning and should be used sparingly. The IDEA Health and Fitness Association recommends this zone for those with higher fitness levels. Training at this level, improves your ability to tolerate the lactic-acid produced when you exercise anaerobically. As your tolerance increases, so does your speed, power and ultimately, your endurance.
As you reach near maximum training at heart rates between 90 and 100 percent of your MHR, you will probably only be able to spend between two and five minutes at this intensity level. Your body is exercising anaerobically and this level is designed for speed work such as sprints. This all-out effort level is useful to competitive athletes who are training for speed, but should be used with caution by the every-day exerciser.
A quick way to track your workout intensity levels is with the use of a heart rate monitor. Many monitors are worn like watches and within one quick glance you know whether you need to increase or decrease your workout intensity to match your fitness goals. Many exercise machines have heart rate monitors attached for your convenience.