Workout Intensity: How Hard Should I Be Working Out?

A good effective way to avoid hitting a plateau during your fitness goals is to make sure you’re always working out in your target heart rate for your age. When your body speed increases, naturally so will your heart rate to match the intensity that you’re asking your body to reach. To high too fast if you’re an individual that hasn’t worked out consistently, isn’t the smartest thing you should do to your body. You should start off with a lower exercise heart rate, until you can consistently stay in your range for 30 minutes consistently. You will find your target heart rate by following this simple formula: 226-your age if you’re a woman, and 220-your age if you’re a man. The number you receive will be represented as your maximum heart rate. A person won’t need to reach their maximum heart rate intensity in order to achieve the results that they want, but the higher the beats per minute you can achieve, the more calories you’ll burn off. If you divide heart rate target zones by percentage of the person’s maximum heart rate, it breaks out into five zones. Each zone has different benefits, and in my opinion all the zones will help an individual become healthier!

The first fitness zone is called the Healthy Heart Zone. In this fitness zone, a person will still be able to carry on a conversation with the person next to them on a nearby treadmill or elliptical machine. This zone is very comfortable no matter the age of the person exercising. You will more than likely be walking if you find yourself in this zone, and if you’re a senior citizen age person, I’d advise you start in this zone until you can achieve your target heart rate zone for at least 30 minutes consecutively. Your workout in this zone won’t give you the most cardiovascular benefits, but it will help decrease body fat, blood pressure, and cholesterol. The Healthy Heart Zone is 50-60% of your maximum beats per minute.

The 2nd fitness zone is called the Fitness Zone. In this fitness zone, you will burn more calories per minute than in the healthy heart zone because the exercise level is a little more intense. Since you will be going faster and covering more distance, you’ll burn off more calories. The calories burned off will depend on the distance you cover and your weight more than any other factors. A person will get the same benefits as the Healthy Heart Zone, but obviously with the higher intensity, you’ll burn off more calories. This zone is 60-70% of your maximum heart rate.

The 3rd fitness zone is called the Aerobic fitness zone. This is the zone where people will experience benefits like endurance, stamina, building new blood vessels, and increasing your heart and lung capacity. With the increase in your workout intensity, you will burn more calories in the same amount of time, because you’re covering more distance in the same time. Calories burned depend most on distance and your weight. You will not be able to achieve this intensity by walking, you may have to switch to jogging to get into this heart rate zone. This fitness zone is 70-80% of a person’s maximum heart rate.

The 4th fitness zone is called the Anaerobic training zone. This intense exercise will improve the amount of oxygen you can consume, which is also referred to as your VO2 maximum/volume. This heart rate level is when your body begins to produce lactic acid. You burn more calories with the lower heart rate training zones, because you’re covering more distance per minute. You will not be able to achieve this heart rate by walking, you’ll need to switch to jogging or running. This zone is 80-90% of your maximum heart rate, and very well could be the last zone you’ll need to reach fantastic fitness results.

The 5th and last training zone is called the maximum threshold or red-line training zone. In this zone, You can’t go anymore intense, and most people can’t stay in this zone for more than a few minutes. This zone should only be used for short bursts, where you work intensely for a minute and then drop back down to a lower intensity for several minutes, and then repeat again. You should consult with your doctor to make sure you can work out at such a high heart rate safely. I’ve heard of long distance runners, or Olympic sprinters training in this zone, but not average people. You’ll burn lots of calories per minute in this zone, but it’s just not as practical or safe for most average individuals who want to achieve fitness results.

If you’re an individual who hasn’t been working out in months, and know that you’re not where you need to be concerning cardiovascular fitness, it’s never wrong to start out at a very conservative heart rate. If you can easily stay in a zone for 30-45 minutes consecutively, then it might be the time to search for a higher training zone.

Now that you know your target heart rate, check your pulse regularly as you exercise. An easy way to do this is to count your pulse for 6 seconds using your watch or a clock, and then multiply this number by 10 to get your beats per minute. You can feel your pulse in several ways, such as by placing your fingers firmly over the inside of your wrist or on your neck just below the angle of your jaw. You can also place your palm over your heart and count the number of beats that you feel. Most workout facilities have treadmills, and elliptical machines that have heart rate monitors built-in with the machinery. If it’s in your budget, you can never go wrong with buying a heart rate monitor that you can wear at all times during exercise.

In conclusion, nobody ever wants to experience a fitness plateau. To avoid plateaus, simply change up your workout routine, by either increasing your intensity, or adding weight resistance to your cardio workouts. Always make sure that you have someway to monitor your target heart rate zone, because your heart rate controls ultimately how many and what type of calories your body is burning off.