Ever wonder what the heart rate numbers mean on your treadmill, bicycle or elliptical machine?  They are there to gauge what intensity you are exercising in order to reach your goals. It is important to know how hard your heart is beating during cardiovascular activity. When you hold onto the heart rate handles of the machine you want to make sure that you are within your target heart rate zone, or THRZ.  To do this, you will first need to calculate your maximum heart.  Maximum heart rate, or MHR, is the number of times your heart should beat per minute at the higher limit of what your cardiovascular system can handle. It is calculated by subtracting your age from 220.  For example, if you are 50 years old: 220 – 50 = 170 MHR.

Once you know you MHR, you can calculate your THRZ.  This is the range at which your heart is being exercised and conditioned but not overwork.  This range gives you the best results for burning fat, weight loss, and cardiovascular endurance.  If your heart rate is below that zone you significantly reduce your exercise intensity.

There are 3 levels of exercise intensity and here is how your heart rate matches up to the levels:

– Light exercise intensity: 40 – 50% of your MHR

– Moderate exercise intensity: 50 – 70% of your MHR

– Vigorous exercise intensity: 70 – 85% of you MHR

Now calculate what target heart rate zone you wish to exercise.  For the 50 year old with the MHR of 170, the levels would be:

– Light intensity: 68 – 85 Heart Rate.

– Moderate intensity: 85 – 119 Heart Rate.

– Vigorous intensity: 119 – 145 Heart Rate.

You always want to start with light exercise and gradually build up to a higher intensity. The goal is to perform 30-minutes at a moderate to vigorous intensity most days of the week. This would be mean aiming to work out within the THRZ of 119 – 145. Now you know what the heart rate numbers mean and how they help keep your cardiovascular system in shape.

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