Last updated: Oct 01, 2011
Are you exercising and seeing few or no changes in your weight and fitness? Then it's possible you aren't exercising wisely enough to get the results you want. The good news is, working out at the right intensity can yield noticeable and relatively quick results when you are careful about the number of calories you eat relative to your exercise.
To be effective, exercise should be at the right intensity (about 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate) for your age and fitness. In other words, it should not be too easy or too hard. You also must exercise long enough (20 minutes or more in your zone) to burn enough calories to lose weight. To achieve both weight loss and increase your fitness, it's best to exercise 45 to 60 minutes 5 times per week.
If you are a man, you can find your recommended maximum (or target) heart rate range for exercise by subtracting your age from the number 220. If you are age 30, for example, your maximum heart rate should be 220 - 30 or 190 beats per minute, if you are age 40, your maximum heart rate should be 220 - 40, or 180 beats per minute. If you are a woman, you should subtract your age from 226.
Because each person is unique, the recommended maximum heart rate for your age is approximate. For example, maximum heart rates for women tend to be higher compared with men. Other factors that influence your maximum recommended heart rate include your overall fitness and the activity you choose. If you're unsure what your target heart rate should be for working out, ask your doctor. He or she can help determine a safe and effective rate for you.
The easiest and most accurate way to gauge the intensity of your work out is to use a heart rate monitor. If you don't have a monitor, you can calculate your maximum heart rate by finding your pulse at your neck or wrist after you've been exercising for at least 5 minutes. Using a watch with a second hand, count the number of beats in 6 seconds. Multiply that number by 10 and compare it to your recommended maximum heart rate range. For example, if you count 12 beats in 6 seconds, your heart rate is 120 beats per minute. The next step is to use percentages of your maximum heart rate and exercise within certain zones to get the most from your workout.
Warm up and cool down at the start and end of each workout and remember:
- If you're new to exercise, begin working out at low or moderate intensity. Gradually increase the duration and intensity of your workout to ensure that you'll stick with your program
- If your fitness is average and you'd like to do more, be sure to train for 20 minutes or more at high intensity for best results
Depending on your level of fitness, each training zone offers benefits. Whatever your level of fitness, any consistent increase in your activity 3 to 5 days a week will help you begin achieving your goals.
Low-intensity Warm Up or Recovery Zone: 50% to 60% of your maximum heart rate
The safest zone for people just starting to work out, the healthy heart zone is a perfect warm up for experienced exercisers. Research shows that workouts in this zone help burn fat, reduce blood pressure, lower cholesterol, and decrease the risk of certain diseases. There is little risk of injury in this zone
Moderate-intensity Fat-burning or Fitness Zone: 60% to 70% of your maximum heart rate
This zone provides the same benefits as the healthy heart zone, but it burns more calories because it is more intense
High-intensity Endurance or Aerobic Zone: 70% to 80% of your maximum heart rate
This zone improves cardiovascular and respiratory fitness. It is especially helpful if you are training for endurance
People who work out at 80% to 90% of their maximum heart rate (in the performance or anaerobic zones) are usually very fit and use these zones to further improve their cardiovascular strength, respiratory fitness, and endurance. Although working out in the performance/anaerobic or maximum expenditure/red line zones (90% to 100% of their maximum heart rate) has advantages, it's unnecessary for getting many benefits for good health. Research shows that exercising at moderate or high intensity most days of the week for a half hour or more helps with lowering blood pressure and cholesterol as well as improving fitness. When it's combined with a reasonable diet that limits calories, moderate and high intensity exercise can help you lose unwanted pounds and maintain a healthy weight.
Be sure to talk with your doctor before beginning or intensifying your exercise program.
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