Friday, April 27, 2012

Using a Heart Rate Monitor

I can smell it, summer time is just around the corner. With the sunny, pleasant weather in season, many of you are taking your workouts outdoors. My question for you: are you getting just as good of a calorie and fat burning workout as you do in the gym? Without the gadgets on the cardio equipment, it’s more difficult to gauge things like speed and incline or resistance effort. One thing that helps you to keep your intensity at a weight loss level is a heart rate monitor. By keeping your heart rate in that calorie burning zone, you are optimizing your exercise efforts for weight and fat loss.

First, you need to determine what your optimal heart rate range is for weight loss. It’s typically a percentage of your maximum heart rate. To determine your maximum heart rate, just subtract your age from 220. The simplest way to determine your ideal calorie burning zone is between 40 and 80 percent of that maximal number. These are good guidelines to follow, with the higher end intended for vigorous exercise. There are also numerous online resources if you don’t want to do the math yourself. It’s important to note at this point that if you have any concerns about your heart and exercise, you should discuss them with your doctor. Any doctor recommendations would supercede the advice provided here.

Now, why is a heart rate monitor important? It tells you exactly how hard your body is working. If you are in the cardiovascular zone mentioned above, then your body is using its energy stores in a optimal capacity. When your heart rate is below the range, your body is primarily using carbohydrate energy stores, not fat. Fat metabolism kicks in around 20 minutes into exercise in the optimal heart rate range. On the flip side, if your heart rate is above the target zone, you might be over exerting and are at a greater risk for dizziness and nausea.

So now the question is which one to use. The ones on the cardio machines at the gym provide a guideline but run the risk of being inaccurate. Another issue with using those is your heart rate actually declines when you hold on to the grips for any length of time (ie your effort decreases). The best one to use is the one you WILL use. There are wristbands that work on their own. Others utilize a chest strap. Some cardio machines can pick up the signal from the chest strap, so that may be convenient. If you are outside enjoying a run in the sun, a chest strap with a wrist display works well.

Keep your heart rates up and burn fat!! See you at the gym!