When you want to lose weight, cutting fat and calories are only part of the story. Starting and following a consistent exercise program will burn away calories. In addition, regular exercise improves your health and physical fitness. Your fat-burning target heart rate zone is a guide you can use to make sure you are working out in a safe and effective manner.
A target heart rate zone defines a range of heart rates or heartbeats per minute appropriate for achieving particular physical fitness goals. According to the Walking Site, a heart rate of 60 to 70 percent of your maximum heart rate is best suited for fat burning. If you exercise with less intensity, you will still burn fat and calories, but not as much.
To figure your fat-burning target heart rate zone, you first need to estimate your maximum heart rate, or MHR. If you're male, subtract your age from 220 to estimate your MHR. If you're female, subtract your age from 226. For example, a 40-year-old man's MHR would be 180 beats per minute. Since the fat-burning target heart rate zone is 60 to 70 percent of MHR, he would aim for a heart rate of 108 to 126 beats per minute.
There is no one form of physical exercise that's best for losing weight. Many people start by walking and jogging. But you can choose other types of exercise, such as swimming or cycling. If you prefer, you can work out in a gym using a treadmill, rowing machine or other exercise machine. You may want to purchase a heart rate monitor to wear while you exercise. As of 2010, these range in cost from less than $50 to over $100.
The American Heart Association recommends that you begin with a target heart rate of 50 percent of your MHR if you have not been exercising regularly. After a few weeks, you can gradually intensify your workout until you are reaching the 60 to 70 percent of MHR range. For example, you might start with a brisk walk and gradually start jogging short distances. You should exercise continuously for 30 minutes or more at least five days per week.
You can burn more fat and calories by intensifying your workout so that your heart rate climbs over the 70 percent mark. It's not a good idea to do this in the first several months of an exercise program, however. The added strain may cause you to become discouraged or burned out on exercise. In addition, pushing yourself too hard means an increased risk of injury. If you have a history of heart or coronary artery disease, or if you are at risk for either, talk to your doctor before starting an exercise program.