How hard should I exercise?
There are three main parts to exercising: intensity, duration and frequency. Every time you do any form of physical activity you must be mindful of these three things. They go a long way in enhancing the benefits you get from exercising. I will address intensity in this post . . . look for a future post where I’ll discuss duration and frequency.
Intensity of an activity is determined by how much effort you put into it. If you are starting an exercise program for the first time, then you want to start at a low intensity level and build from there. Set weekly goals as well as monthly and beyond.
Know your heart rate
You can measure the intensity of an exercise you are doing by first calculating your maximum heart rate (MHR).
Many formulas have been developed for calculating this rate but the one most frequently used is to subtract your age from 220. This has been determined to be the best approximation of our maximum heart rate. It is also used by manufacturers of fitness equipment to calibrate heart rate zone on many of their machines. So for example, if you are 35 years old your max heart rate would be 220-35 or 185.
Low to moderate intensity would be 60% – 90 % of your maximum heart rate. High intensity would be 90 % and over.
Your resting heart rate
To determine how hard you should be exercising you will need to know your resting heart rate (RHR). You can find your RHR by checking your pulse first thing in the morning, before any activity. To do this, use the index and middle fingers of one hand to feel your pulse on your opposite wrist. Count the number of beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four to get your heart rate for one minute. This is your resting heart rate.
Your target heart rate
To get the greatest health benefits from your workout, you must elevate your heartbeat rate to a certain level – normally referred to as your target heart rate (THR). (See below for a couple target heart rate formulas).
Exercising at your target heart rate will help to improve cardiovascular health, stabilize blood glucose, reduce body fat and boost endurance.
Caution: If your heart rate climbs above normal very quickly you need to stop or proceed with caution. At your earliest you should check with your doctor and follow his or her advice on how to proceed. Heart attacks can occur if your rate gets too high and blood pressure is too low. Do not panic; follow your doctor’s directions carefully.
Training intensity should range from 60% to 90% of adjusted maximum heart rate. If you’re just beginning an exercise program or you want to concentrate on burning fat, then you should work at around 60 to 70% . . . with the eventual goal of steadily increasing to a moderate rate of 85 to 90%.
Target Heart Rate calculations
There are two formulas commonly used for checking your target heart rate. Both are based on a maximum heart rate (MHR) of 220.
1.) Age based formula:
MHR – Age x (Percentage of intensity) = Target Heart Rate (THR)
For example, to check the target heart rate of a 50 year old exercising at an intensity of 60 %:
220 – age = maximum heart rate in beats per minute
220 – 50 = 170 beats per minute
170 x 60% = 102 beats per minute
A target heart rate of 102 beats per minute should be the rate at which a beginner who is age 50 be working towards. Try to figure out your target heart rate based on the above formula.
2.) Karvonen heart rate formula
A more accurate formula for checking target heart rate is the Karvonen heart rate formula (developed by Dr Karvonen). It is more personalized than the standard aged based formula:
Heart Rate Reserve x Intensity + Resting Heart Rate = THR
Resting Heart Rate, as pointed out earlier, is the rate at which your heart beats at full rest. It is recommended that this rate be taken before getting out of bed, counting the pulse for a full 60 seconds, 3 mornings in a row and averaging the counts. Remember to use your index and middle fingers to locate your pulse on your wrist (never use your thumb).
Heart Rate Reserve (HRR) is how much your heart rate would have to climb to reach your maximal heart rate:
(HRR) = maximal heart-rate – resting heart-rate
Let’s use this formula to calculate the Target Heart Rate of a 45-year-old man who has an average resting heart rate of 62 beats per minute. If he exercised at an intensity of 70 percent of maximum heart rate his target heart rate would be 141 beats per minute.
220 – 45=175 (Maximal heart rate)
175 – 62 = 113 (Heart rate reserve)
113 x 70% + 62 = 141 (Target heart rate)
Try calculating your target heart rate using the Karvonen formula.
Use these tools to fine tune your workout program and reap the benefits of a healthier you. Hope you enjoyed this post. I would love to hear your comments.
To a healthier you,
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