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Monitoring heart rate is a great way to gauge exercise efficiency / Image source: James Martin/CNET

Monitoring your heart rate is a great way to gauge exercise efficiency

When we’re exercising, we want to make the most of our time. No matter what the activity, you want to feel like you’re putting in the right amount of effort to reach your goals. 

The easiest way to measure exercise efficiency is through heart rate training. For all the exercise trackers out there with their different modes, the most important feature you can use to quantify your workout is a heart rate monitor. Calorie counters are nice but often inaccurate — and I’ll tackle this in an upcoming blog. If you know your heart rate, you can maintain a proper level of intensity and adjust throughout your workout. 

To train successfully based on your heart rate, you need to know the maximum times your heart should beat during an activity. The best way to do this is to take 207 and subtract 0.7 times your age. This is called the theoretical maximum heart rate (MHR). 

You can take this number and apply it to the different heart rate zones, depending on the activity. 

Depending on your goals, you may spend time training in different zones. If you’re running a marathon, you need to keep a steady pace. This translates to time spent in the Zone 1 and Zone 2 because endurance is key. If you are training for a 5K or doing intervals, you want to spend more time training in Zones 3. In this situation, short bursts of intensity will propel you forward.  

But what about the “fat-burning zone”? If you want to lose weight, shouldn’t that be what you should aim for? Does this mean low intensity exercise is superior to high intensity activities? Zone 1 is only called the “fat-burning zone” because the body relies more on stored fat (versus carbs) as its primary fuel source when you work at a lower intensity compared to a higher intensity. Performing aerobic exercise at a low intensity is not a better way to lose weight than more intense physical activity.

No matter what you do, it is recommended that we spend at least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week to stay healthy. Heart rate training will ensure that you are working as efficiently as possible to meet your fitness and health goals. It can take the guesswork out of your workout. 

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