Out of all the muscles you engage during a workout, the most important one is the heart. You’ve probably been told you need to get your heart rate up to get in shape, but have you ever wondered why?
Your heart rate is measured by the number of beats per minute and says a lot about your health and fitness levels. A normal resting adult heart rate ranges from 60 to 100 beats per minute (bpm). Athletes and highly active people can have a rate as low as 40 bpm. A healthy resting heart rate typically means that your heart doesn’t need to work as hard to maintain a steady beat.
So what does that mean for your workout?
When you’re exercising, you should aim for a target heart rate. The best way to calculate your target zone is to determine your maximum heart rate. To do this, subtract your age from 220. Then, you aim for a certain percentage of your maximum heart rate. Hitting this zone will help you get the maximum benefit from your workout.
Make each movement count, especially if your goal is to improve your performance or lose weight. You’ll want to push closer to your max heart rate for a greater caloric burn. As your body gets used to training, your heart becomes more efficient with that activity and more effort may be required to increase your heart rate.
Your target heart rate should vary based on your activity levels. For light exercises, your heart rate will be less than 64% of the maximum rate, moderate is 64-76% and high-intensity is 77-93%. For example, a 20-year-old would have a max heart rate of 200 with a target zone of 154-186 bpm. Keeping these targets in mind will help you determine how effective your workouts are for your overall fitness level and goals.
Measure your heart rate before, during and after your workout to see if you hit the range you wanted. Many cardio machines have heart rate monitors built in. If you have a fitness tracking device, you can measure it that way. If all else fails, you can always check your heart rate manually by checking your pulse in your wrist or neck – just count the total number of beats for 15 seconds and multiply by four.
After you finish a workout, it’s also important to let your body slowly cool down as the heart rate lowers. Try walking slowly, taking deep breaths and calming your overall movement.
Exercise is great for the heart, and pushing yourself to your target range will help improve its overall function and get you on track for your health goals. If you’re just getting started with fitness, try not to worry too much. The key is to get your body moving!