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Don’t Let the “Fat Burning Zone” Deceive You

I just received a facebook message question about their “target heart rate”. I believe this is one of the most deceiving fitness principles so I’m going to attempt to explain exactly what the “target heart rate” is and the truth (more like a lie) behind the “fat burning zone”.

Learning Your Maximum Heart Rate

You may have heard the term, Maximum Heart Rate, but most people have no clue what that is. We see stickers on treadmills saying “65% of your maximum heat rate”, but that’s basically a foreign language to most people. Here’s the answer: your maximum heart rate is always 220 minus your age.

Your Maximum Heart Rate is:
220 – my age (_____) =  ___________
My maximum heart rate is 178

The Fat-Burning Zone

walking on a treadmill

The so-called magical “Fat Burning Zone” is 65-75% of your maximum heart rate. This is the zone where your body burns a higher percentage of calories from fat. This is where I start getting mad and here’s why. Stay with me. We need to work through this math so you can follow me here. Trust me – it will be worth it!   Read the rest of this entry

Are You Really Exercising? Ask Your Heart!

Target Heart RateThere is a fine line between exercise and increased activity. Someone can walk everyday and still not exercise enough to help them lose weight. Although increasing activity can improve your health, it is not as effective when it comes to weight loss.

What is the difference between exercise and activity?  

A good example for activity would be walking your dog or a taking a morning stroll. Exercise is typically more structured and purposeful. Good examples would be a power walk, jog or aerobics class.

For most people, your heart rate is probably the best indicator of aerobic exercise and caloric expenditure. In order to find out where you should exercise you need to figure out your maximum heart rate, which according to the American Heart Association is 220 minus your age. Then, multiply that number by 65% for a low intensity workout or 85% for a higher intensity workout.

Here is an example for a thirty year old:

polar RC3 heart rate monitor220 – 30 = 190BPM (beats per minute)
Heart rate for a low intensity workout would be 123.5BPM  (190 X .65)
Heart rate high intensity workout would be 161.5BPM  (190 X .85)

Tracking your heart rate can be pretty easy when using a treadmill. Most treadmills have a chart on the machine to tell you where you need to be, but what if you are out walking in your neighborhood? You can either buy a heart rate monitor (like this Polar RC3 heart rate monitor Steve uses), or you can get an estimate by counting your heart beat within a ten second span and multiplying it by six.

heart rateFor example, the same thirty year old would need to maintain a heart rate of 21 beats over a ten second span for a low intensity workout. For a higher intensity workout, the ideal heart rate would be 27 beats. Of course it is not as accurate as a heart rate monitor but it can give you an idea of where you are.

Although heart rate is normally the best indication of caloric expenditure, there are some exceptions. Some people’s resting heart rate can be slower than normal, a condition called Bradycardia, or it can be faster than normal, called Tachycardia. However, for the general population, the heart rate is the best way to monitor aerobic exercise and calories burned.

So, if you are not sure if you are exercising at the right pace, just ask your heart. It will tell on you in a jiffy!

Check out this awesome Heart Rate Calculator at AceFitness.org

heart rate calculator

Check out this handy dandy chart for a quick 10-second heart check!

Target Heart Rate Chart

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