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Exercising With Your Heart
Many government and private studies have shown that over the past 20 years, there has been a dramatic increase in obesity in the United States and rates remain high. More than one-third of US adults (35.7%) and about 17% (or 12.5 million) of children and youth ages 2-19 years old are obese. We are encouraged to exercise at least thirty minutes a day at least five days a week just to maintain a healthy lifestyle and body size.
This article is about your heart and your health. Your heart is the most important muscle in your body! Every year 500,000 Americans die of heart disease and about half of them are women. As early as 45 years of age, a man’s risk of heart disease begins to increase and the physical effects become significant.
With that being said, it’s pretty clear to me that my daily exercise routine definitely needs to be more active in order to get the most out of my time and efforts. For me, that program combines 40% muscle training and 60% cardio training for each daily training session. A simple “free weight” workout covers my muscle training sessions while my cardio sessions are split up with treadmill, swimming, cycling, and indoor circuit training. Cardio or cardiovascular exercise is any activity that involves the large muscles in the body, raises the heart rate, and is continuous and rhythmic.
For the past eleven years I have been an indoor cycle coach and am heavily involved in understanding how the human body responds to cardio exercise. Many times I have met people exercising “all out” where their heart was pounding, sweat was pouring out of their entire body and complete exhaustion was the main goal. This technique is completely wrong and ineffective. An effective cardio workout is not complicated at all and only requires understanding how your heart rate fits into your exercise sessions.
To start this study you will need to have access to a heart rate monitor. It doesn’t have to be an expensive model and usually the cheapest ones have a large digital readout, which is very useful during your sessions. Prices will vary but I’m sure you can find a reliable heart rate monitor for as little as $25. Having a heart rate monitor allows you to measure exercise independently of what activity you are doing by targeting heart rate as a measure of exercise.
Heart rate is measured by finding the pulse of the body. This pulse rate can be measured anywhere in the body where the artery pulsation is transmitted to the surface by pressing it with the index and middle fingers. We need to know our heart rate many times during exercise and having a heart rate makes it easy to learn. Heart rate is the number of heartbeats per unit of time, usually expressed as beats per minute (BPM). Heart rate can vary as the body needs to absorb oxygen and release carbon dioxide, such as during exercise or sleep.
The main goal of cardio training is to lower your resting heart rate. Your resting heart rate is the heart pumping the least amount of blood you need because you are not exercising. Resting heart rate is a person’s heart rate when they are resting, lying down but awake, and have not exerted themselves recently. Maximum heart rate is the highest heart rate that a person can safely achieve during strenuous exercise. A study I have done, shows that the maximum human heart rate generally does not change. For example, my heart rate is 172 beats per minute. This is the number where as my exercise session increases in intensity, my heart rate starts to increase. As I approach 172 beats per minute, I start to get out of breath and feel like I can’t go any faster. A person will not increase that number or decrease the maximum heart rate (regardless of diseases and medications). It is your reference point that is used to set up training points. Furthermore, exercising using these individual zones and understanding these zones leads to more effective exercise sessions and subsequently, lowers the individual heart rate. Having a low resting heart rate means that your heart, the most important muscle in your body, beats slower per minute. A second benefit of exercising by knowing your heart rate zones, is that you will target your workouts to maximize fat burning. Increasing fat burning puts us directly on the front lines in the nation’s fight against obesity. By exercising at sufficiently intense levels, you can overload your cardiovascular system. During rest, your body adjusts to strengthen the cardiovascular system. Over time, your heart becomes more efficient at delivering the oxygen and fuel your muscles need to maintain this high level of performance.
In order to be more effective as you train (to increase your training time and increase your physical results), you must first understand what your heart rate is. There are many ways to do this. The best way is to visit a doctor who can perform the most accurate tests to determine this key number. You can get really, really close to that number by using a step test, running in place or riding a stationary bike and recording three or four numbers for “time trials” and then adding the middle number as your maximum beats per minute. for your specific training goals. Please note that I do not recommend calculating your maximum HR number using a specific formula based on age. After all, everyone is at a different level of fitness regardless of age.
Finally, use that high HR (BPM) rate to do your workouts. A heart rate training zone is a range that defines the upper and lower limits of training intensity Calculate your training zones as follows:
Starting Position – (Warm Up) — 50 – 60% of maximum HR: The easiest position and probably the best position for people starting a fitness program. It can also be used as a warming and cooling agent. This area has been shown to help reduce body fat, blood pressure and cholesterol. It also reduces the risk of degenerative diseases and has less risk of injury. 85% of calories burned in this area are fat!
Zone Two – (Fat Burning) — 60 – 70% of maximum HR: This zone provides the same benefits as Zone One, but much more and burns total calories. The percentage of calories from fat is still 85%.
Zone Three – (Endurance Training) — 70 – 80% of maximum HR: This zone of training will improve your cardiovascular and breathing system AND increase the size and strength of your heart. This is the area of choice if you are training for an endurance event. Most calories are burned by 50% from fat. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body’s ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart. Over time, aerobic exercise can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing.
Zone Four or Anaerobic Zone – (Exercise Training) — 80 – 90% of maximum HR: The benefits of this zone include the improvement of maximum VO2 (the maximum amount of oxygen a person can consume during exercise) and thus the system of improved cardiorespiratory, and higher lactate tolerance which means your endurance will improve and you will be able to fight fatigue better. This is a high pressure area that burns more calories, 15% from fat.
Anaerobic simply means “without oxygen”. In this area, you are “out of breath” with a rapid heart rate. This is not a place where you work or live long term. Start with fifteen or twenty seconds. Your target and active gym is the third zone. This type of exercise strengthens the heart and lungs and improves the body’s ability to use oxygen. Aerobic exercise has the most benefits for your heart.
Over time, aerobic exercise can help lower your heart rate and blood pressure and improve your breathing. Your body and cells are very active in this area of energy production. Generating energy burns fat. And that… is the bottom line. Exercise properly and exercise with your heart.
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