Target Heart Rate Zones

With Valentine’s Day approaching, I thought it would be the perfect time to talk about our heart, but not in the love-y, mushy sort of way.  I always tell people, “I don’t care what you do, just increase that heart rate and MOVE!”  It is true, increasing your heart rate is vital to your overall health.  There are several companies who have made millions on the fact that humans need to increase their heart rate.  Whether it is the fitbit, a polar heart rate monitor, the Jawbone or some other tracking device, we have become all about tracking our fitness.  However, when you track do you just look at the numbers?  Do you know what the numbers mean?

Disclosure: I am not a personal trainer, a doctor or a nurse.  If you are concerned with your heart rate zones, consult a doctor or physician.

Before we get into the actual numbers, I am sure many of you are asking, “Well, which device do you use?”  I am obsessed with my Polar FT7.  The price is right, it does the job AND it has a running timer on it so when I am teaching my classes and say, “30 seconds,” it is actually 30 seconds.

Now about those numbers, the first step to being able to accurately read your data on one of these devices (or even the old fashion way by taking your pulse) is to find out what your maximum heart rate zone.  The formula for this is 220 minus your age.  This means my maximum heart rate is 189.  Let me tell you, I rarely get my heart rate to 189.  Not all people are the same and therefore this formula is not 100% accurate for everyone.  If you want more accurate data, I would recommend VO2 testing.  Many gyms have this service and they can go more in detail with your results and tell you at what zone your body burns the most fat.

Now that you know your maximum heart rate, is that where you should always be?  The answer is no!  In fact, you should not spend much time there at all.  There are five different zones: Peak Athletic Performance, Optimal Conditioning, Aerobic Base, Fitness/ Fat Burning, and Maintenance.  Each of these zones are a percentage of your maximum heart rate.  Use this calculator to help you determine your heart rate for these different zones.

Peak Athletic Performance is 90%-100% of your maximum heart rate.  You should be here for 0-2 minutes at a time and it is exhausting for your breathing and your muscles.  The physiological benefits are that it increases maximum sprint race speed and tones the neuromuscular system.

Optimal Condition is 80%-90% of your maximum heart rate.  You should be here for 2-10 minutes at a time and your muscles will be fatigued and you will be breathing heavily.  The physiological benefits are that it increases your aerobic tolerance and improves high endurance speed.

Aerobic base is 70%-80% of your maximum heart rate.  You should be here for 10-40 minutes at a time and you will have light muscular strain, easy breathing and moderate sweating.  The physiological benefits are that it enhances your aerobic power and improves blood circulation.

Fitness/ Fat Burning is 60%-70% of your maximum heart rate.  You should be here for 40-80 minutes and it fees compfrotbal, easy breathing, low muscle load and light sweating.  The physiological benefits are that it increases your aerobic endurance, strengthens body to tolerate higher intensity training and increases fat metabolism.

Maintenance is 50%-60% of your maximum heart rate.  You should be here for 20-40 minutes and it is very easy for breathing and muscles.  This would be where your heart rate should be in warm-up and cool down.  The physiological benefits are that it helps and speeds up recovery after heavy exercise.

What I have learned from wearing a heart rate monitor is that it is not just running or lots of cardio that will put your heart rate into those higher zones.  In fact, I can get my heart rate just as high with a kettle bell swing, pull ups or a heavy squat as I can running.  In fact, I know when I do this I am doing my body a favor because I am also building more muscle which in turns burns more while resting.

There is a time and place for every zone.  During your week of exercise try and hit all the different zones.  Get to know your body and which zone you feel the best, which zone challenges you the most and which zone you need the most improvement.  Please pay attention to the duration and do not stay in the zone longer than you are supposed to.

Now that you know what these numbers mean, find exercises and classes that work for you in each zone.  This Valentine’s Day, don’t just take care of the one you love’s heart, take care of your own to0- it is the only heart you have.

Your turn- tell me!
What kind of device do you wear to measure your heart rate?
Are there specific exercises you like to increase your heart rate?




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