Using Your Target Heart Rate To Boost Weight Loss

February 1, 2018

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blog_fatburnzoneBeing “in the zone.” It’s something we all strive for. It’s that feeling you get when you achieve big things with apparent effortlessness and even joy. Like when your boss gives you a deadline to hit for an important presentation, and the work flows out of you like water. Or if you’re shooting hoops with your kids or friends and you can’t miss that basket, which seems as large and wide as a lake. Is it possible to feel “in the zone” while losing weight? Absolutely! Especially when you understand your target heart rate as part of your cardio activities.

Before reviewing how reaching your target heart rate can help with weight loss, we want to say upfront that if you’re truly motivated to lose weight, you must first modify what you eat. In the eternal battle between food and exercise for weight loss effectiveness, we’re here to tell you that food wins out every time. In fact, for safety purposes, many people who suffer from obesity are directed to first shed pounds before engaging in physical activity. However, for most, activity plays an important role in boosting weight loss and an especially key role in long-term healthy weight maintenance.

So if cardio exercise factors prominently into an effective weight loss plan, how can reaching your target heart rate take it to the next level? This depends on two things: your maximum heart rate and your exercise intensity level., According to the American Heart Association, your max heart rate is about 220 minus your age. So for example, if you were 40 years old, your max heart rate would be 220-40, or 180 beats per minute. Once you know your maximum heart rate, 70-85% of that number, according to the CDC, will be in your target heart rate zone. In other words, if you achieve a minimum of 70% of your maximum heart rate, you will find yourself in what is commonly known as “the fat burning zone.”

But once you achieve your target heart rate, how long do you have to hold it for in order to really see results? The good news is that it is actually better to vary your exercise intensity levels during the same session for greater weight loss results. This is commonly known as interval training.

Interval training (which is not as scary as it sounds) involves short bouts of high-intensity exercise followed by longer intervals of low-intensity exercise. An example of interval training could be high-intensity running for 10 seconds followed by 60 seconds of walking at low or moderate intensity (defined as 50-69% of your maximum heart rate), and repeating that cycle as much as you feel comfortable. According to the American College of Sports Medicine, interval training burns the most calories. And studies have shown that interval training is an efficient way to lose weight, burn body fat, and save time.

Monitoring heart rate during exercise is simple and inexpensive. Most cardio machines come equipped with sensors that measure your pulse. Wearable fitness trackers not only measure the calories you’re burning but also keep track of your beats per minute. For those on a tight budget, a simple heart rate monitor watch can do the job and cost less than $20. Keep in mind that these machines and devices are not 100 percent accurate, but give you a fair assessment of how hard you’re working.

The heart is a muscle that needs to stay strong for optimal health, so even raising your heart rate slightly through low or moderate intensity activities helps reduce risks of chronic diseases like heart disease and stroke. Since it’s still February (i.e., National Heart Month), we’re going to take every opportunity to remind you to care for it. When you achieve this, there’s no stopping you from being “in the zone” in all aspects of your life.

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