Whether you’re just starting an exercise program with a particular goal in mind, or you’re a bonafide gym rat who wants to crank things up a notch, one of the best ways to improve your overall fitness is to measure and monitor your heart rate.
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Find Your Target Heart Rate
To get the most of your workouts, you must first determine your target heart rate for your age, weight and fitness level. The target heart rate for any person can be determined through a simple formula. Subtract your age from 220, then multiply the result by 0.5 and then, once again, multiply the result of your first subtraction by 0.75. Those resulting numbers are the upper and lower limits of your ideal target heart rate.
A simple example for a 25-year-old individual would be 220 – 25 = 195. Therefore, the maximum heart rate for a 25 yr old would be 195 BPM.
Next, you’ll multiply (195 x 0.5 = 97.5) for the lower limit, and (195 x 0.75 = 146.25) for the upper limit of your heart rate.
So to workout to maximum capacity for your age, keep these two figures in mind.
How To Measure Your Heart Rate
Now that you know what your target heart rate is, you’ll need to measure your heart rate during your workout to see how hard you are really exercising.
You can measure you heartbeat manually by placing the tips of your two fingers (not your thumb) over your pulse. Using a timer, count the number of beats in a minute. This isn’t necessarily the most accurate way to measure heart rate, but it will give you a rough idea of how close you are to your target. If your heart rate is higher than the upper limit of your target range, you may want to slow down the intensity of your workouts, but if it’s below the lower limit of your range, you should most certainly intensify your efforts.
For a more accurate and quicker assessment of your heart rate, you can use an electronic heart rate monitor.
Gauging Your Intensity
Monitoring your heart rate, as beneficial as it might seem, is not an absolute guarantee of maintaining a healthy heart rate. One of the keys to reaching your fitness goals is being able to adequately judge the intensity of your workout as either moderate or high intensity by how you feel. Here’s what we mean:
Moderate Intensity: A moderate workout will work up a sweat after about 10 minutes, while allowing you to still carry on a conversation (albeit, perhaps with some difficulty). This should be at 50 to 70 per cent of your maximum heart rate.
High Intensity: The signs of high intensity exercise are when you are completely breathless, usually after five minutes. This should be at 70 to 85 per cent o your maximum heart rate.
If you’re not fit or you’re just beginning an exercise program, aim for the lower end of your target zone (50 percent) and gradually build up the intensity.
If you’re healthy and want a vigorous workout, you should always aim to be at the higher end of the zone.
The Rewards Of High Intensity Exercise
Research has shown that high-intensity interval training (or HIIT), which includes short bouts (from 15 to 60 seconds) of high-intensity (maximum effort) exercise alternated with longer, less strenuous exercise or periods of “active rest” (such as planking, crunches etc.), is one of the best ways to increase your cardiovascular fitness and promote weight loss.
Not sure where to begin? Pick up the pace and try it yourself with some of our favourite HIIT workouts.