You deserve applause if you have finally found the will to fulfill your resolution of working out regularly to get fit. But has your fitness instructor told you about the importance of knowing your heart rate while exercising? Well, knowing your heart is indeed is important to understand where you stand in your fitness journey.
While exercising, it may take a 10-minute warm-up for some people to become breathless. And then there are others who can run for an hour and hardly seem out of breath. You may ask, “Is one exercising harder than the other?” The answer lies in your heart rate.
When it comes to working out and your heart rate, understanding your target heart rate will allow you to be more conscious of the effort you’re putting in. Or, the effort you still need to put in. Monitoring your heart rate during exercise will also let you know what heart rate zone you should be in so that you can adjust the intensity as required. This way, you can save yourself the time and effort while getting the most out of your workout.
Before jumping into discuss the heart rate zones and how that impacts your workout, let’s shed some light on why it’s important to know your heart rate.
1. You’ll learn how fit you really are
Apart from accurately measuring your resting heart rate, continuous heart rate tracking also means you can check what heart rate zone you are working in. You’ll also know how long you can sustain it for, and how long it takes your heart rate to return to normal after exercise.
If you are training for a particular goal, you can measure and track improvements over time by monitoring heart rate and working within target zones.
2. You’ll measure your improvements and shortcomings accurately
Data doesn’t lie. If you’ve been slacking off for a few weeks, gorged on junk food and partied hard, that’s likely to be reflected in your resting heart rate. Watching those numbers go up could be the motivation you need to drag yourself back to the gym. Ensure you’re devoting time for at least four sessions a week and work hard. This way, you’ll soon notice that all your numbers are heading in the right direction.
Let’s elaborate on a little more insight into resting heart rate and the heart rate zones.
Overview on resting heart rate
Your resting heart rate means the number of times your heart beats in a minute when you’re at rest. The ideal time to check the resting heart rate is during the morning after you’ve had a good night’s sleep.
For most of us, 60-100 beats per minute (bpm) is normal. The rate can be affected by aspects like hormones, stress, medication, and how physically active you are. An active person or an athlete may have a resting heart rate that’s as low as 40 beats per minute.
When it's about your resting heart rate, lower is better. It generally means your heart muscle is in great condition and doesn’t have to work as hard to maintain a steady beat. Studies have shown that a higher resting heart rate is linked with lower physical fitness and higher blood pressure and body weight.
Understanding the target heart rate
Your target heart rate refers to a range of numbers that indicates how fast your heart should be beating when you workout. While exercising, you can monitor the heart rate and try to reach the target zone. Doctors also focus on the target heart rate to decipher the results of a cardiac stress test.
The target heart rate is ideally explained as a percentage (usually between 50-85%) of your maximum safe heart rate. The maximum heart rate is related to your age, as subtracted from 220. This means for a 50-year-old, the maximum heart rate is 220 minus 50, or 170 beats per minute. At a 50% exertion level, your target would be 50% of that maximum or 85 bpm. At an 85% level of exertion, your target would be 145 bpm. Hence, the target heart rate that a 50-year-old should be aiming for during exercise is 85 to 145 bpm.
If you want to skip all this brain-teaser, there’s an easy way out. Wear a fitness tracking device or workout on a treadmill or other machine that measures the target heart rate for you.
Heart rate zones for your workout
The heart rate zones would ultimately depend on the goal of your workout routine. If your goal is endurance, then you’ll have to keep your heart rate up for a prolonged period of time consistently. In the beginning, try maintaining 60 to 70% of your maximum heart rate for half an hour. Once that becomes your normal, you can build your intensity from there.
It’s also essential for you to be acquainted with your max heart rate (or the maximum times your heart should beat during activity). This will determine your heart rate for each zone of workout.
Your max heart rate percentage: 50-60%
What it’s ideal for: Overall health and recovery. You can treat it as your recovery zone. This stage is something that you should be able to sustain for a long time.
Max heart rate percentage: 60-70%
What it’s ideal for: Fat burning and basic endurance. At this stage, you’ll be working out, but you're not going all out. And if you aim to run marathons, this would be about your pace.
Max heart rate Percentage: 70-80%
What it’s ideal for: Building endurance during moderately long exercise, and working up a sweat. At this stage, you’re working at an intensity you can sustain for around 30 minutes if you had to. You're still moving at your aerobic capacity (your body is using oxygen as cell energy).
Your max heart rate percentage: 80-90%
What it’s ideal for: When you get to about 84% of your max heart rate, your body goes into anaerobic metabolism. What this basically means is your body is running low on oxygen, so it has to find other sources of energy to burn. You should push for about 10 minutes maximum at a time when you’re in this zone. It’s in this zone that those “afterburn” becomes evident.
It’s known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption. For those of us fascinated with a good acronym, it’s often referred to as EPOC. You tend to stress yourself a little bit more, and after a workout when you go home, your body goes through a recovery phase to make up for that. At this stage, you’ll have an elevated metabolism that continues to burn up fat.
Your max heart rate percentage: 90-100%
What it’s ideal for: At this stage, you're probably going all out. You can sustain in this zone for a maximum of two minutes. However, most people usually reach their limit between 30 seconds and a minute.
If you need more insight on how to use heart rate to your advantage to meet your fitness goals, you can consult with your trainer. Changes in the heart rate isn’t an overnight process. So, if you’re just getting started, take precautions first as you push your endurance limits. In the meantime, happy sweating!
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