What is heart training?

The beauty of heart training is that it relies on a system (Cardiovascular System) that reflects your overall state of stress 24 hours a day, 365 days a year. It reflects when you are overtrained, sick, hot or cold and therefore can guide you in making changes in your exercise routine. More importantly, from an exercise point of view, it provides immediate and consistent feedback about your stress level, intensity level and rate of adaptation in terms of overall fitness.

Heart rate matters for weight loss because it reveals how you are adapting to exercise. Once you understand how to interpret its response to any given exercise scenario and how to respond (i.e rest, increase/decrease intensity) you will be able to optimize your fitness regime and its outcome.

Isn’t weight loss a matter of simple arithmetic?

To shed pounds, you must burn more calories than you consume. And when it comes to burning calories, the greater the exertion, the greater the rate at which calories are burned. Working out at about 60% to 75% of your maximum heart rate-MHR (fat-burning zone) burns fewer calories than working out at 75% to 85% of your maximum heart rate (aerobic or cardio zone). But caloric burn depends on a workout duration as well as its intensity – and it’s easier to work out longer when exercising at a lower intensity.

The uniqueness of monitoring heart rate is that it is based on your own heart’s capacity and nobody else’s. It is like an instant feedback machine, telling you how hard or easy you are training.

It may sound complicated, but it’s really quite simple

When we talk about heart rate training, we’re talking about exercising at the right intensity for burning fat, strengthening your cardiovascular system, achieving weight loss or whatever exercise goals you have. It is a foolproof  indicator that will tell you whether you’re exercising at the right intensity.

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Heart Rate Training: tools and terms

Heart Rate Monitors: A heart rate monitor is the best tool you can use to let you know what your heart rate is during exercise. In the past you may have simply counted your pulse, but that method isn’t accurate enough. It requires you to slow down your exercise activity, which causes your heart rate to immediately drop. By wearing a heart rate monitor during your workout, you get immediate, continuous, accurate feedback. A simple strap goes around your chest and a watch on your wrist displays your heart rate in beats per minute.

Target Heart Rate: Of course, those numbers won’t mean a thing unless you know what your target range is, right? But don’t worry – that part is easy too. Your target heart rate range for weight loss is 65%-75% of your maximum heart rate. And your max heart rate is easily estimated with a simple equation. If you’re male, subtract your age from 220. If you’re female, use 226. So for a 35-year old male: 220-35 = 185. His estimated max heart rate is 185 beats per minute, and his target heart rate range for weight loss is 120-139 BPM (65–75%).

Weight loss workout zones

The heart rate range for weight loss has different workout zones. These different workout zones have their own benefits.

– Recovery or Low intensity one (50%–65% of MHR) Ideal for burning calories without stressing your body. Gives your body a chance to heal, prevents burnout and reduces the risk of injury.
– Endurance or Fat burning zone (65%–75% of MHR) Builds your aerobic base and trains your body to burn fat by maintaining a steady heart rate and a comfortable pace over an extended period of time.
– Strength or Aerobic zone (75%–85% of MHR) Improves cardiovascular strength with increased intensity.
– Interval or Anaerobic zone (65%–92% of MHR) Boosts your metabolism and calorie burn by incorporating bursts of speed and power with periods of recovery.
– Ultimate challenge or Maximal zone (80%–92% of MHR) This zone is the ultimate challenge of all-out effort and an unbeatable way to test your fitness and measure your progress.

In conclusion

What is interesting to note is that the longer you sustain an elevated heart rate (i.e. aerobic zone or higher), the longer it takes for your body to recover by slowing down. This means you continue to have a faster metabolism and to burn more calories even after your training is done.

Once you have the useful information, you can apply it to your training. Afterall, the heart doesn’t lie. Like any other muscle it responds by getting bigger and stronger as you workout and continues to pump blood into your muscles to speed up the repair and recovery, when you are not working out. And if weight loss is your ultimate goal, heart rate training and a nutritious diet is your best bet. Not only will you lose weight, but you’ll be doing it in a safe and healthy manner—which means this time, you’ll keep it off!

Read more from Expert Harmeet K. Sehgal


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