Target heart rate exercise for dummies...
Before you got out exercising with weight loss in mind, you should be asking yourself "what should my target heart rate be to burn fat efficiently". This is because if you work out with your heart in a particular zone, your body burn more fat more efficiently, which really helps you reach your weight loss goals quicker. Here's how to work out your optimal heart rate for fat burning.
Before we get to crunching the numbers to calculate your target heart rate for fat burning, it is important to first talk a little bit about health and nutrition. By now most of us know about the importance of eating well and maintaining a balanced diet. The same principles apply to any weight loss program that you start. In fact, if you are looking to lose weight, you need to be doubly careful about what you put in your body.
It always helps me to think of the human body as a machine (my husband pictures the space shuttle, but that's not my style). The machine requires fuel, otherwise it just will not work. More importantly, it needs the right type of fuel. If you tried to put regular gas into the space shuttle, and then expected it to perform normally, you'll be surprised at the results. The same applies to your body - if you don't put the right fuel (food) in your body you will be hard pressed to function at your optimal efficiency. To put it another way, if you eat wrong, don't expect your body to treat you right.
How to work out your target heart rate
To work out your target heart rate, sit down and run a quick calculation. The first thing you will need to work out is your maximum heart rate. This is 220 minus your age. For example, let's work out the target heart rate for a woman who is 40 years old.
Maximum heart rate: 220 - 40 = 180
This maximum heart rate is the beats per minute (bpm) that we work on to calculate the ideal fat burning heart rate. When you are exercising, you should always avoid exceeding your maximum heart rate. You may end up placing your heart and entire body under dangerous strain, and there is no real benefit in terms of achieving extra weight loss by reaching extreme bpm levels anyway.
The ideal fat burning heart rate zone is an approximate figure, not an exact one, to we need to make two calculations to work out the upper and lower levels of the fat burning heart rate zone. These are relative to your maximum heart rate, so let's continue using the example of a 40 year old. To work out the lower end of the target heart rate scale you will need to work out what 60% of your maximum heart rate is. Then calculate 70% of your maximum heart rate and you have the upper end of the scale.
Continuing our example:
180 x 0.6 = 108; and
180 x 0.7 = 126
This means that is the 40 year old works out at a level where her heart rate is between 108 and 126 bpm, then her body is efficiently burning fat. How much exactly depends a lot on a number of factors - but in simple calorie terms we're talking about 6 to 10 calories per minute exercising in this zone. This is also a very achievable level of exercise to reach and maintain, which is a great advantage for those of us who are a little out of shape and find it more difficult.
The good news is though that once you start working out at this target heart rate zone you will not only start to burn fat efficiently from your body but you will soon begin to look and feel healthier and fitter. If you feel like you are straining at any time while exercising in this target heart rate zone, slow it up and regulate yourself. You should feel like exercising at this level is a challenge, but you must also be conscious of preserving your health, and an injury when getting started will not help you achieve your weight loss goals.
Working out at a higher heart rate is also possible, but is obviously more of a challenge so it really is not recommended for those just starting out. Working out in the next heart rate zone, called the aerobic heart rate zone is also beneficial. This is the zone between 70 and 80% of your maximum heart rate. Exercising at this level has the benefit of burning off more calories per minute (about 9 to 12) but these are less from fat and more from carbohydrates. Also, you just cannot sustain aerobic activity at this level.
For this reason, a lot of people do what is called interval training or target heart rate training, where you do reach this aerobic heart rate level for short periods of time, but spend most of your work out time in the lower heart rate zones. There are many different ways of doing this, but to be honest, I'm probably not the best person to be explaining it.
There's a great free program put together by the folks at intervaltraining.com and it is called the "Lose Belly Fat Fast" program. For those of your just starting out, I highly recommend this program, which is FREE and delivered to you via email. I don't know how long they will keep the course free as they would be able to sell it - it's fantastic.
Something you may wish to purchase to take the guesswork out of the whole heart rate business is a heart rate monitor. There are many available on the market these days, but you really only need one that monitors your heart rate - any other bells and whistles are just distractions.
We have discussed the answer to the question "What should my heart rate be to burn fat efficiently", and for those people wanting the lesson in summary, between 60 and 70% of your maximum heart rate for your age group. Extending into the 70 to 80% range for short periods also has benefits, but exercise at this level cannot be maintained. You must also be very careful of the food you eat and how you treat your body. To avoid injury, always warm up before exercising - and you will soon be on your way burning fat.