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Your Heart Rate and its Impact on Your Aerobic Workout

CardioWhen doing aerobic exercise, it is important to make sure that your heart rate is high enough and that you are working hard enough. If you aren’t reaching a certain level of intensity, you won’t get the benefits of doing aerobic exercise, and as a result, you will not feel or see any of the related results.

Methods of Measuring Exercise Intensity

There are several methods to measure at what intensity you are exercising: Heart Rate, Rating of Perceived Exertion and the Talk Test.

Method What it is
Heart Rate This method is the most effective and accurate way of determining how hard you are exercising. You need to understand what your target heart rate zonesare and then, while exercising, you have to take your pulse to evaluate in which zone your heart rate falls. There are two methods of finding your Target Heart Rates:

  • The Simplified Heart Rate Method
  • The Karvonen Method
Perceived Exertion Based on how you feel during exercise, this method requires you to listen to your body and to be able to judge if you are working hard enough.
Talk Test Mostly used to know if you are working too hard, this method says that if you can’t hold a conversation while you are exercising, you are probably over exerting yourself and should decrease intensity.

Target Heart Rate Zones

Regardless of the method used, however, the Target Heart Rate Zones remain the same. The chart below describes the zones in detail.

Target Heart Rate Zone* What it does Who Should be in this Range
55% – 65% of Maximum Heart Rate(MHR)** Absolute minimum of where your heart rate should be in order to see cardiovascular benefits. Training in this zone will begin to improve your hearts’ ability to pump blood and improve the muscle cells ability to utilize oxygen. This is a good zone for long slow distance exercise. Those who are beginning an exercise regimen or are out of shape
65 – 75% of MHR The “Aerobic Zone” or “Target Heart Rate Zone”, it is the most effective for overall cardiovascular fitness. It increases your cardio-respiratory capacity (the body’s ability to transport oxygenated blood to the muscle cells and carbon dioxide away from the cells). After a while you will be able to go longer in less time and your body will burn less glucose and more stored fat as fuel.
  • Those who are healthy and active and fall into an average level of fitness
  • Those who are interested in health benefits and some aerobic training effects
  • This zone is also effective for increasing overall muscle strength
75 – 85% of MHR This zone often results in significant training effects in the heart, lungs and skeletal muscles, resulting in improved aerobic performance.
  • Individuals with an above average to high level of fitness
  • Those looking to gain health benefits and improved aerobic exercise performance
85% – 90% of MHR At this point you begin to cross over from aerobic training to anaerobic training (anaerobic threshold). At this point, the body cannot effectively remove lactic acid from the working muscles quickly enough. This zone is very difficult and your muscles become tired, your breathing becomes heavy and you become fatigued. The benefit of training in this zone is that you can increase your body’s ability to tolerate and deal with lactic acid for a longer period of time.
  • This zone is primarily for people who want to increase their performance levels.
  • Often competitors are highly in tune with this zone because they often compete near or at their anaerobic threshold
90 – 100% of MHR (VO2 Max) In this zone, lactic acid develops very quickly because you are operating with oxygen debt to the muscles. You will not be able to stay at this level very long.
  • You should not train at this level unless you are extremely fit
  • Often good for sprinters and those individuals who are looking to increase their fast twitch muscle fibers which increase speed
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