Working out within your target heart rate zone is essential to getting the most out of your workouts.
Your target heart rate is a safety measure to make sure you’re working within a healthy range for your age. First you need to know how to take your pulse.
There are two common pulse points – one in the neck and the other at the wrist. The one in the neck is usually easier to find, but be careful not to apply too much pressure. Using your first two fingers (avoid using the thumb as you’ll pick up its pulse as well), place them on the pulse point and count the number of beats for 10 seconds. This is usually done ten minutes into your workout. You will have to stop exercising to take your pulse, but make sure you keep your feet moving to avoid the blood pooling in your legs. Multiply this number by six to get your heart rate per minute. Then check the chart below to see if you’re on target. If you click on the chart, it will take you to a heart rate calculator.
Before you do this, you will have to determine your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from the number 220. Then, depending on your goals and your training program, you will want to stay within 60% to 80% of your maximum heart rate zone. Never work higher than 85% of your maximum heart rate zone as this will put undue stress upon your system and will increase your risk of injury. A minimum of 30 minutes of sustained cardiovascular training is recommended for optimum results.
There are four target heart rate zones:
Target Heart Rate Zone 1: This range is for moderate or beginner exercise and works within 50% to 60% of your maximum heart rate.
Target Heart Rate Zone 2: This is the all-too-popular fat burning zone. Training at a level of 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate will give you maximum fat burning results, as long as you sustain this rate for at least 30 minutes.
Target Heart Rate 3: This is an intermediate zone that is recommended for aerobic conditioning and weight management. If your goal is to improve cardiovascular conditioning and increase stamina and endurance, train within 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate.
Target Heart Rate 4: This is the athlete zone where advanced conditioning takes place and is not to be taken lightly. If you are training for a sporting event, then working within this zone on specific days is recommended, but make sure you don’t work this hard every day.
Some important things to remember
- Mix up your training to achieve the best results. This will require you to work within different heart rate zones depending on the program.
- It is always a good idea to check with your healthcare provider before you engage in exercise, particularly if you’re on medication, as this can affect your target heart rate.
- For beginners, you will have to work your way up to your target heart rate zone. Be patient and make sure you don’t overdo it. Exercising too hard will only set you back and will increase your risk of injury.