Your heart rate needs to increase to the right training zone for your workout to be effective, but exercising at too high a rate can be dangerous. Heart rate monitors allow you to adjust the intensity of your workout to safely challenge your current fitness level. If while monitoring your heart rate you find that your normal workout produces a lower heart rate, your aerobic endurance is improving.
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Maximum Heart Rate
Knowing your maximum heart rate allows you to determine the heart rate you need to reach for fat-burning and recovery zone training. A medical test is the most accurate way to measure your maximum heart rate, but you can get a close estimate using a simple formula. For beginners, subtract your age from 220 for men -- 226 for women. Fit people should subtract half their age from 205. Get an exact maximum heart rate measurement from your doctor to be sure you are training safely -- especially if you plan on strenuous training in the upper heart rate zone.
To achieve a higher fat-burning metabolism, lower resting heart rate and faster recovery time, train at 65 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate. Using light to moderate resistance on a cardio machine, you can do this workout for 30 minutes to one hour three to four times a week. Use a personal heart monitor or periodically check your heart rate using a cardio machine’s built-in heart monitor. Slow down or speed up as needed to keep your heart rate in the zone.
Exercise in the heart rate recovery zone when you are tired and need to allow your body time to rest and rebuild. Using light resistance on a cardio machine, exercise at 50 to 65 percent of your maximum heart rate for 30 minutes to one hour. This workout can be done once or twice a week as needed, but it should not be done most days as it will not provide the amount of intensity you need to increase your fitness level.
For some people, the suggested percentages for maximum heart rates feel too easy or too difficult. Another way of determining the right training intensity is by your perceived exertion. Pay attention to how hard it feels like you are exercising. It should feel challenging but not so hard that you can’t keep going for at least 30 minutes. You may be pushing too hard if you can’t talk for about 15 seconds while you are exercising.