Bump Up Heart Rate, Lose Weight
By Steve Wilkens, BodyTrac Health & Fitness™
Q: I thought the main goal of exercise was to be active. What is the importance of exercising at my target heart rate?
A: Many people exercise within their comfort zone and become discouraged when they do not realize results.
We had a new client join BodyTrac the other day. She had been working out with a personal trainer, but had not been doing any specific cardiovascular exercise. Her goal was weight loss. Cardiovascular training is crucial for weight loss and overall heart health.
She gravitated to the upright bike and could easily pedal her way for 30 minutes. I suggested that she might want to try using one of the heart rate transmitters. She agreed, but noted that her heart rate never exceeds 108 beats per minute (bpm).
The next time she came in for her appointment I demonstrated the transmitter. She put it on and began doing her cardio workout on the recumbent bike. The transmitter relays your heart beat directly to the display on the treadmill, elliptical or bicycle. This information is as accurate as an EKG machine, resulting in a very precise, constant reading of your heart rate. Her heart rate increased up to 108 bpm, just as she had said, and I could see that her activity level was not challenging to her.
It is more difficult to increase your heart rate on a bike as opposed to a treadmill or elliptical, and some people become complacent and do not push themselves beyond what is comfortable. I thought it might help to try something different.
We went over to the treadmill and she told me she was not comfortable jogging because of the strain that her weight put on her knees. (Every pound of body weight a person loses will result in a 4-pound reduction in pressure exerted on the knees.) As a compromise we decided to adjust the incline and speed to increase her heart rate without jogging. Within five minutes her heart rate was at 135 bpm. I was very happy to see that. We then went over to the elliptical. Once she started a rhythmic pace of revolutions, her heart rate jumped to 140 bpm.
For people who are looking to lose weight, it is crucial to exercise at your target heart rate. There are many charts and calculators you can use to determine your range. You can also use this simple formula: Subtract your age from 220 to calculate your maximum heart rate and then multiply that number times 75 percent and 85 percent to find the range for your optimal zone. It is recommended that you exercise in your target heart rate at least 20 to 30 minutes to get the best results from any cardiovascular exercise. You will actually continue to burn more calories at rest for up to 24 hours.
In order to maximize your results, think of cardio as an extension of your job. If you do not work hard, you will not get paid. The same goes for exercise. If you do not put in the hard work, you will not see the weight loss.
Do not be afraid to step out of your comfort zone. Realize your body is capable of amazing things. Stay on track and, if you are exercising properly and making healthy food choices, you will achieve the results you are seeking.
Steve Wilkens has been a personal trainer in Tallahassee for over seven years with IFPA and ACSM certifications. He is also an owner and trainer at BodyTrac Health & Fitness in Killearn.